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DVD Review: Elsewhere

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I’m a sucker for horror films. I give pretty much all of them a chance (I’m also a teeny-bopper at heart, and I keep up with all the teen/YA films and books). So when I saw that Elsewhere not only starred a Twilight bit player, but also not one, but two Lost actors, I jumped at the chance to review it, despite its kiss-of-death, independent direct-to-DVD release.

Luckily, I was pleasantly surprised. From the very beginning, Elsewhere sets an ominous and moody tone, and delivers quite a punch in the first few minutes. The plot is teen-centric and poses the question: If a wild child rebel goes missing and no one’s there to care, does she ever get found?

Said wild child, Jillian, is played deftly by Tania Raymonde (Alex of Lost), a girl who likes to push people’s buttons and boundaries, and lives her life dangling on the edge. Because her hometown, Goshen, Indiana, doesn’t offer enough excitement, Jillian gets her kicks by posting nearly-naked pictures of herself on an Internet dating site (aptly described as “a grocery store for child molesters” by the film’s writers) and meeting various lecherous men.

Jillian’s best friend, Sarah, played by Anna Kendrick (who plays a peripheral role in Twilight), is Jillian’s polar opposite (rich to Jillian’s poor, conservative to Jillian’s wild), yet they are best friends and, of course, coworkers.

One day Jillian tells Sarah she wants to run away and produces the suitcase to prove it, then says she’s going on a “date” she arranged with one of her online suitors. After that, Jillian disappears, and the only thing she leaves behind is the strange cell phone video she sends to Sarah, who turns out to be the only one who seems to care that Jillian is missing. The more Sarah searches for Jillian, the more she gets dragged into the seedy underbelly of a town (and friend) she thought she knew.

Elsewhere also stars Jon Gries (Roger Linus, Ben’s father on Lost) as Mr. Tod; Chuck Carter (The Big Bang Theory, Desperate Housewives) as Sarah’s sleuthing partner, Jasper; Olivia Dawn York as Darla Tod; Paul Wesley (Army Wives,Cane, Fallen, American Dreams, Everwood, The O.C.) as Billy; and Jeffrey Daniel Phillips (Cavemen, Unknown, Hide) as Officer Berg.

Writer-director Nathan Hope (CSI's Director of Photography, who also wrote and directed Lucky), has created a moody chiller in Elsewhere that’s not horror so much as suspense. Although there’s only one jump scare in the whole film, the overall effect is still ominous, creepy and dark.

On the negative side, there are many clichés and cringe-worthy moments in Elsewhere. Sarah follows someone dressed like her friend into a strange building, and then when that person disappears, Sarah never wonders where that person went? Sarah’s Mom leaves her home alone, even though a girl has gone missing? Sarah’s not scared to be sitting in her home with no window coverings when it’s dark out? And, oh yeah, Sarah and Jasper don’t want to be caught sneaking around a corn field, yet they use lanterns? There’s also some sub-par acting (mostly from the men, although the woman who plays Sarah’s mom truly is awful).

Elsewhere extras include commentary with Hope and producer Vince Palomino; “The Road to Elsewhere,” an 11-minute featurette with cast and crew; six deleted/extended scenes; and a photo gallery. The film is presented in 1.78: 1 aspect ratio, with audio in 5.1 surround sound or 2.0 Dolby Digital, with both English SDH and Spanish subtitles. The film is rated R for “language, sexual content, violence/disturbing images, and some drug and alcohol use by teens,” and it has a 106-minute run time.

Elsewhere is an entertaining film, if you can get past the clichés. But it’s best rented, because I can’t imagine anyone would want to watch it more than once.

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