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Echoes of Kerberos [Ross Kolton, USA, 2020]

Ross Kolton’s Echoes of Kerberos is a visually arresting and deeply strange psychological thriller, in which an office worker is plagued by a series of threatening phone calls from an anonymous stranger. From the very opening of the film, we become aware that the Kolton’s visual style is the star of the show. The noir-esque title card is designed beautifully, flickering and glitching in place, providing the perfect gateway into the unsettling and weird world of the film. Early on, we are treated to a Brian DePalma-style split screen, stylishly bisecting the screen diagonally as Robert, our protagonist, receives his first abusive call. The caller is drenched in red, with only his mouth visible, contrasting starkly and effectively with the mundane darkness of Robert’s apartment.

The caller’s presence, although threatening, is marred by a strange mockney accent reminiscent of Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins [Robert Stevenson, USA, 1964]. The oddness of this accent is reinforced by the caller’s repeated use of clichéd British swear words, which fall harshly on the ear. It creates a sense of surrealist humour, undermining the tension of the film but creating a new, quasi-Lynchian combination of suspense and humour. This strange pairing pervades the film, sometimes to great effect and other times to almost derail the experience. A scene in which it works wonderfully is in Robert’s initial conversation with his partner, which is mediated by two windows. The expected warmth of the lovers’ interaction is destroyed by the solid and impenetrable glass which separates them, lending an unnatural and weird air to the scene.

The film’s narrative follows a fairly standard series of beats for a thriller – Robert capitulates to a series of increasingly threatening demands before meeting the caller face-to-face – but culminates in a surprise ending, which matches the visuals of the film for strangeness and surrealism. This ending again treads familiar territory, revealing an earth-shattering epiphany which retroactively informs the events of the film. The details of the twist toe the line of taste, seemingly shoe-horning in dramatic revelations for the sake of shock value. However, the film ends on a positive note, elevating the film and providing thoughtful commentary on the importance of self-care and personal happiness.

Kolton’s film is odd, and perhaps could benefit from a more fleshed out and subtler screenplay. However, his directorial skills are undeniable, and Echoes of Kerberos is absolutely gorgeous to look at. Kolton’s visual flair and eye for powerful shots, which create a surreal and hypnotic atmosphere, carry the film’s weaker moments and ensure it is engaging from start to finish.


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