When his friend Paul dies unexpectedly, Travis heads into the woods to say goodbye. As Travis deals with his grief, and the way it has affected the relationships in his life, he starts to realize that he actually might not be alone in the woods. Curiosity turns to horror as Travis comes face-to-face with something both inexplicable and frighteningly familiar.
August 14th, 2018
Billy Ray Brewton
Billy Ray Brewton
Show Yourself has an interesting concept, but it ultimately doesn’t make the grade.
Travis (Ben Hethcoat – also credited as Associate Producer) is a successful actor. He takes a solo journey to a cabin in the woods to find the final resting place for the ashes of his dear friend Paul (Clancy McCartney). Travis spends his time drinking, Skyping with his friends and his estranged girlfriend Nikki (Corsica Wilson) and hiking about, looking for that perfect spot to dump Paul’s remains. But as his grief and regret overcome him, he starts to experience odd and potentially supernatural events while alone in the woods.
Let’s waste no time. Here’s my biggie issue with Show Yourself.
The hinted at reason (it’s never blatantly spelled out) for the story – didn’t have enough heft. It wasn’t important enough to justify all that happened in the film. I honestly was expecting some sort of twist ending (that is the movie era we live in). And the bro-mance relationship between Paul and Travis could easily have been turned into a homosexual relationship which was never consummated. It certainly felt as though this was where the story was headed (the way that Travis longingly looked at photos of Paul and watched the videos of their friendship past). There was something more to be had there, and I think the filmmakers missed it.
And not just for the “gay reason”. Any number of other story-lines could have been put into place to up the ante. What was there (I’ll not spell it out here) is really rather flimsy. True – in real life, such a reason might be a possibility. But if you’re crafting a story for an audience to consume, you need something far deeper and far richer. And with this ho-hum reasoning for Travis’ journey – it fails to impress. There are far better options available to really engage the audience. Again, a missed opportunity.
I enjoyed all of the supporting performances, but as Travis, Hethcoat didn’t quite bring enough oomph to the lead role – a character which we’ll see/follow throughout the entire film, with few breaks. While he had a few good moments, overall I wasn’t terribly impressed with his choices. I found it ironic that Travis (the character) is a successful actor, when I don’t feel that Hethcoat really captured Travis’ dilemma. In other words, I didn’t care enough about him. Travis’ early conversation with buddy Lane (a fun supporting turn from Barak Hardley) didn’t ring true for one moment. And this was our introduction to the character. Not a healthy start to a film with basically nothing but Travis.
And speaking of that early conversation, the opening exposition (one of at least a dozen Skype and phone conversations) was really heavy-handed. We learn everything (death of a friend, Travis is an actor, etc.) in that one call, and it’s just too much. Spacing out some of the necessary back-story would have been a better choice.
My favorite performance, as it felt very authentic – came from Robert Longstreet as Jerry, the owner of the cabin where Travis will be staying for the duration of his stay/ordeal. Longstreet’s got but 10 minutes on-screen, but I enjoyed every moment of his performance. His best moment (you know how I love my precious and genuine actor moments), was his conversation with Travis while showing him around the cabin. One of the windows fails to easily open, and Jerry curses it. It feels like an ad lib, and Longstreet nails it.
Despite the fact that there are far too many music montages throughout (Travis repeatedly walking through the woods), I liked the actual music choices. It really set the tone and it wasn’t the normal kind of music you’d expect for a horror film (something heavier). As much as I loved the music, too many montages always feels a bit lazy to me.
The film was shot well (perhaps a bit of drone overuse), with lovely locations and solid lighting, notably in the film’s climax. And it never looked overdone, which is always a chore when shooting at night.
There is some genuine tension at moments, when the film allowed itself to go there (beyond the tedious phone calls and frequent “getting drunk” montages). But what I noticed, in more than one sequence – was how long it took for the tension to pay off. You recognized the set-up for a potential scary moment (the Skype conversation with his director x 2), but then it took forever to actually happen. The film succeeded when brewing this suspense (you’re always watching the backgrounds in the frame), but the timing felt off – odd.
My avid readers of 4 know that with each film I see, my response to “unanswered questions” will vary – film to film. In this case, I wanted to know a bit more, once the film concluded. Who (or what) was actually in the woods with Travis? Hallucinations or a physical being? I understood the closure Travis receives at the end of the film (the main point of his journey), but if the filmmakers are gonna throw out potential supernatural elements – I’m gonna need a bit more. Is what Travis sees, a physical manifestation of his grief and regret?
And oh, how I like to nitpick, but the label on Paul’s jar – at one point, the handwriting was different. Say it along with me now, “the devil is in the details”.
I can’t give the film high marks, as it felt repetitive, long-winded and as something of a missed opportunity. But it’s not without its charms.
That being said – I can’t go any higher than a solid 3-star rating.
Show Yourself is now available on DVD and on select VOD outlets.