Hey, it’s uh, been a hot minute. Like many of you, I’m seeking refuge in this trashfire year by watching a lot of horror movies.
If there’s anything nice to be said, maybe it’s the surprising surge in female-led ocean horror that 2020 has given us. I’m going to be taking a look at a few of these for this very special Octoberween, and since ocean horror is my absolute favorite I am very very excited.
This week I’m starting with “Blow The Man Down”, an Amazon original that released earlier this year. This is technically an ocean-adjacent thriller but sometimes you don’t learn these things until you start and I’m certainly not mad about it. Coming in at a brisk 91 minutes and touting a R rating, “Blow The Man Down” starts with a sea shanty, like any good movie should, and plows forward in a sort of rhythmic fashion, from the soundtrack itself to the actual pacing, to the scenes punctuated by the noise of distant sex upstairs.
I live in Texas now, but I’m from a coastal East Coast town and this had a nice eerie strike of home for me. I’m almost positive the fisherman in the opening shanty with a vape went to my high school (not really but basically). It’s obviously a little added bonus when you can relate directly to a movie but I think “Blow The Man Down” stands alone just fine even if you don’t have fond memories of low-tide smell.
Allow me to over-generalize for a moment- someone once pointed it out to me and I can’t ever un-see it, but you can sometimes tell when a woman directs a movie (particularly about women), because the ‘gaze’ changes significantly. You can see it pretty clearly in “Booksmart” (dir. Olivia Wilde), for example. The camera focus shifts to lots of face, lots of expression, lots of nuance. “Blow The Man Down” was written and directed by Bridget Savage Cole and Danielle Krudy. Ultimately, it becomes a great examination of character. Also the acting is solid, which goes a long way for that sort of thing. It’s definitely a movie that benefits from undivided attention though, there are little clues nestled everywhere in the thing like quiet expository nods.
There’s this really fantastic (read: horrifying) moment when you’ve done something a bit dumb for the escapism, and at some point it dawns on you that maybe you’re in a bit over your head, but maybe it’s too late to backtrack. And now you’ve got some work to do, some decisions to make. “Blow The Man Down” capitalizes on this moment and then unravels the thing you rarely get to see with those moments; the context of the world that allowed you to make said dumb mistake. The same world that enables you to keep making dumb mistakes.
Now, I don’t have a sister, so some of this closeness is probably lost on me, but the intent is intact. Using weird life anecdotes as a parable in the midst of some truly heinous trouble seems…sisterly. Your younger sister reminding you of said inane anecdote when it bites you in the ass a bit also seems sisterly.
I think my favorite part about “Blow The Man Down” is how it encapsulates the small town catch-22 of gossip. Social status is bought with information, who you know, what you know. Everyone knows everything about everyone, except they don’t. Not really. Everyone has gaps, and everyone compensates with bluffs so they can pretend the gap doesn’t exist at all. It goes beyond the standard ‘it’s who you know’ social capital and into a world where this strange, invented desperation factors in.
“Blow The Man Down” is definitively reminiscent of “Fargo” in a lot of ways. It excels at what any good mystery should accomplish, giving the audience just enough to feel smart but not enough to reveal everything. I personally found the ending very satisfying, but I’d be curious to see if anyone had an issue with it, so sound-off appropriately in the comments.
Next week we’re watching “The Beach House”, and then “Deep Blue Sea 3”. You heard me. Three. Deep Blue Sea 3.