Tribeca ‘19 Review: SOMETHING ELSE Ponders Heartbreak Through Horror

Jeremy Gardner's follow-up to THE BATTERY is a somber love story with a twist.

Directed by Jeremy Gardner and Christian Stella (Tex Montana Will Survive!), Something Else follows in the genre-mashing footsteps of its production duo, Justin Benson, who also stars in the film, and Aaron Moorhead, whose 2014 indie film, Spring, unforgettably weaved romance into a hauntingly beautiful creature feature. In this follow-up to his 2012 film, The Battery, Gardner melds romance and monsters to tell an emotional story about the harsh reality of relationships, heartache, and a fear of change.

Gardner stars as Hank, a small-town bar owner living out in the sticks with his girlfriend, Abby (Brea Grant), in a large, ramshackle house he inherited from his family. After ten years together, the couple is content, but it’s obvious Abby is ready to take things to the next level. When she disappears one day, leaving nothing more than a cryptic note, Hank is devastated and heartbroken. Even worse, he’s being visited every night by a monster scratching at his door. The film intercuts flashbacks to happier days with Hank’s grief-stricken nights spent guarding his desolate domain with a shotgun. Moving performances and beautiful cinematography in sequences depicting the couple’s storybook romance intensify Hank’s melancholy state, making his ravings around town about a monster seem all the more insane.

A slow-burn, Something Else is simple in narrative, mostly following Hank as he attempts to contact Abby and convince his friends the monster actually exists. Whether the monster is real, or a metaphor keeps you guessing, but for Hank there is no question of its existence. Rarely seen without his shotgun, and sometimes shooting at motorists in attempts to kill the monster, his friends fear Hank has come unhinged. Abby’s brother, Shane (Benson), the local sheriff, is of the opinion that humans create their own monsters, so he’s quick to dismiss evidence of scratches on the door as the work of a bear. Hank’s friend Wade (Henry Zebrowski), on the other hand, is a bit more willing to entertain the idea, adding some of the film’s more light-hearted and hilarious moments. Expertly mixing humor and heartbreak, the bright, cheerful flashbacks juxtaposed with the dark days of Hank’s depression are sure to strike a familiar chord with anyone who has loved and lost. The production design of Hank’s surroundings also perfectly amplify the somber atmosphere. The crumbling house full of old furniture and belongings, likely inherited, suggest Hank’s contentment up until now living such a stagnant lifestyle.

When Abby suddenly returns, the couple wait side by side for the monster, discussing where to go from here. From this moment on, we almost forget the threat of something lurking in the woods. Both Gardner and Grant deliver moving monologues, showcasing Gardner’s immense talent as a writer. While not every idea in the ambitious meld of genres nails the landing, the emotional beats of this good old-fashioned romance are sure to connect. Also, a dinner sequence featuring some remarkable karaoke moments make for an enjoyable ride. Those seeking more horror than romance may want to look elsewhere, but if you’re a fan of a good love story with a dash of, well, something else, then this movie is meant for you.