Avoid spoilers (there are none in this review) and get ready for a tense experience with this mystery-filled, horror-adjacent reverse chronology psychological puzzler.
Writer/director/editor/producer Evan Richards’ mystery/psychological thriller Cognitive is the kind of film that I would love to write a long review about just to sing its many praises, but it is also exactly the kind of film that deserves to have viewers go in as cold as possible so as not to have any of its thrills and surprises spoiled for them. I’m opting for the latter approach here.
Told in reverse chronological order, the film opens to find a young woman (Rachel Fliescher) in big trouble, as she has been kidnapped by a couple similar in age (Nina Brissey and Adam Courtin) and there’s a major fuss just outside the place from which she makes an escape. Richards then takes the story and characters backwards on an increasingly mesmerizing path, with the jolt of the final scene landing so well that I immediately wanted to watch the opening sequence again, and then the entire film, having finally gained access to all of the information, and finding the film more than entertaining and well made enough to do so.
The four leads, which include Ratidzo Mambo as the best friend of Fliescher’s character, all give dynamic performances, and they have plenty of meaty material with which to work thanks to Richards’ smart screenplay. Ryan Jackson-Healy’s cinematography puts viewers up close and in the middle of action at suspenseful times, with a wonderful final sequence filmed perfectly.
Without wanting to give any more away, I will add that Cognitive is horror adjacent and serves up just enough ambiguity to leave viewers pondering about certain elements. Lucky you, you don’t need to wait long to see this slick, gripping film as it plays as part of Another Hole in the Head’s online programming (see the festival link below).
★★★1/2 out of ★★★★★
Directed by Pann MuruJaiyan
Writer/director Pann MuruJaiyan evokes classic Alfred Hitchcock Presents tension with an extra dollop of the supernatural in his short film The Keys (Australia, 2022), an homage to the Master of Suspense’s television series. From Konrad McCarthy’s sumptuous black-and-white cinematography to Wesley Hughes’ mood-setting score to the attention to detail setting the film in 1940s Los Angeles, The Keys nails everything it goes for. Rupert Cadell (Steven Sheeran) is a real estate agent who somewhat underhandedly tries to coax homeowner Caroline (Tara McDonald) into listing her house through him. Young Marnie (Annika Goessens) gives Cadell a bit of history, but he is about to find out more than he could ever want to know. Fans of classic television terror should find The Keys highly appealing, as should any viewers who enjoy mounting suspense and a chill up the spine.
A King in Yellow
★★★1/2 out of ★★★★★
Directed by Drew Roderick
A brother (Liam Shi) tries to help his sister (Michelle DeMoss) regain her sense of hearing in this cosmic horror short that features American Sign Language. He does so by combining the occult and vinyl records, but one album that he chooses brings terrifying results to the siblings. Writer/director Drew Roderick gets fine support from his cast members and offers up some eerie visuals in this intriguing slice of cinema.
Reviews by Joseph Perry
Cognitive, The Keys, and A King in Yellow screen as part of Another Hole in the Head Film Festival, which takes place in person in San Francisco, California from December 1st–December 18th, 2022 and also On Demand on Eventive and live on Zoom for those who can not attend the live screenings. For more information, visit https://www.ahith.com/.