WATCH THE TRAILER HERE
First, the Recap:
There are skeletons in the closet. For all those who are being what it appears on the surface–calm, collected, having everything together–there also remains those who keep hidden from prying eyes deeper truths about themselves and their lives, choosing to be apart, alone. Yet, as seems to happen so often, what happens when secrets are exposed? A young journalist named Jon Edens (David Gries) is striving to seek out opportunity for relevant stories to be published for his job at a local publication while also pursuing material for a book he’s writing as well. Currently striking out on both fronts, Jon begins to wonder what chances he truly has at success in either endeavor.
However, when an unexpected tip about a woman named Agatha Smith (Jami Tennille) living out of an isolated roadside hotel piques his interest, Jon takes the initiative to track down the possible lead specifically for his book, which focuses on “shut-ins”. Warned by the hotel manager Dale (Robert J. Haddy II) and, in time, the groundskeeper Gerald (Derek Scott), to watch his step around the mysterious woman, Jon ultimately wins Agatha’s hesitant trust as she slowly becomes willing to share about her life. Yet, as he begins to obsess over her, becoming much more involved than expected, it is only then that dark secrets emerge and Agatha’s past is revealed. The question then arises–will Jon be able to separate himself from Agatha’s tortured mindset and intentions in time, or will his choices lead to oblivion?
Next, my Mind:
What starts off as a fairly average character drama about one man’s journey for fulfillment in his writing career slowly builds momentum and turns into an edgy exploration of curiosity turning into infatuation, then fixation, then all-out dangerous obsession, which ultimately propels writer/director Steve Gibson’s 105-minute indie feature into realms bordering the thriller/horror genres with effective poise and smartly conceived storytelling, culminating in an ending that will punch you square in the face. Its understated method of drawing the viewer in by only hinting at the potential enigmas represented by Agatha’s words and actions, paired with Jon’s falling into them, serves as the catalyst for everything else that unfolds from there, and it only becomes stranger and more menacing as the film’s second act rolls forward. It’s this kind of building tension that gives this film its legs, even as the purposefully shot camera angles and accompanying lighting allow Agatha’s true existence to be kept wonderfully hidden until the appropriate time as to have the most impact on us.
Gries turns in a great performance in his role as Jon, an ambitious but frustrated writer whose passion to do what he loves so often gets squashed by an overbearing boss and stories to cover that completely seem inane or outside his wheelhouse. Even when attempting to pursue his book-related subjects, it becomes an exercise in dead ends with no foreseeable momentum to be had until he discovers Agatha. Once his fascination is jump-started, it becomes his only focus to unhealthy degrees, and the shocking truths he ends up uncovering only make it worse. Watching the character try and navigate this harrowing turn is engaging and very well-enacted by Gries. Likewise, Tennille provides a wonderfully and intentionally minimized rendering of Agatha, a woman cloistered away from the world to what would seem like debilitating levels, yet finds her way to function amidst it all while avoiding social conventions and interactions with others. This becomes changed, however, when she meets and opens up to Jon, and we think there might be a genuine breakthrough. But, when Agatha’s real past, current situations, and warped reality all come flooding out, it’s flat out scary, and Tennille just milks every moment to a “T”.
Supporting characters abound throughout, including Haddy II as the hotel’s less than amiable manager Dale who cautions Jon from the start about Agatha, Scott as the groundskeeper Gerald whose attitude towards Agatha is also far less than friendly, Isaac J. Connor as Ryan, a co-worker of Jon’s whose one of the only real voices of support for Jon at his job, Bob Taylor as Jon’s demanding boss Mitch, Michael Sigler as Abram and Gabrielle D. Taylor as his wife Ruth, members of the cult-like community Agatha originally came from, along with others. In total, “The Lost Within” is quality indie cinema that offers what could have been a rather mundane premise, but instead turns it on its head thanks to the slow burn delivery paying off and the creative means of character development allowing for the normal to morph into the eerie and the dramatic to graduate into thriller with style.
As always, this is all for your consideration and comment. Until next time, thank you for reading!