I can’t remember being as nervous and on edge at watching a film recently as I was during the dark-comedy thriller Emergency. Its trio of protagonists have different views on what the right thing to do in their situation might be, and everything they do seems to get them in deeper and hotter water.
Kunie (Donald Elise Watkins) is a seriously minded university student who has been accepted for a graduate program at Princeton. His best friend Sean (RJ Cyler) is more party-minded, and has his heart set on the duo making school history to be the first Black students to finish a night of debauchery known as “The Legendary Tour.” Their plans go horribly in a different direction when they return to their apartment — which they share with slacker, game-playing roommate Carlos (Sebastian Chicon) — and find a young white girl (Maddie Nichols as Emma) passed out on their floor.
Butting heads on what to do, torn between simply calling for the authorities and the dire consequences that could lead to and trying to figure out a plan that would clear them of responsibility, the trio finds their every effort thwarted by outside forces, which include Emma’s sister Maddie (Sabrina Carpenter), who is desperate to find her despite having not paid attention to her at a party earlier.
Director Carey Williams, working from a tight script from KD Davila and aided by terrific performances from the cast members, brings a razor-sharp edge to the proceedings that leaves viewers feeling tense and uncomfortable while serving up a large amount of laughs — many of which also weigh in on the side of discomfort. Issues of race, including the current-day struggles that Black men and other minorities face are addressed seriously, making the tension in Emergency all the more nail-biting.
★★★★ out of ★★★★★
Directed by Spenser Cohen
A young woman named Mary (Sophie Thatcher) wakes up in a hospital bed, paralyzed and only able to communicate with the nurse on duty (Alicia Coppola) by blinking. It is almost impossible, therefore, for her to let the nurse know that whatever it was that pushed her out of her window at home is now in the hospital room and aiming to do the same thing there. Director Spenser Cohen, who co-wrote the screenplay with Anna Halberg, delivers every bit of unease possible in this superb supernatural short. Thatcher’s silent performance is driven by her eyes, and it is a corker. You can watch the full short here.
Reviews by Joseph Perry
Emergency and Blink screen as part of SXSW, which takes place March 11–20, 2022 in Austin, Texas. For more information, visit https://www.sxsw.com/.