Fantasia Review: The Block Island Sound

There is something off the coast of Block Island. It takes hold of members of one family. Those uneffected race to find the truth about what’s causing their loved ones’ strange behavior before it’s too late.

I can firmly say one of my favorite films at Fantasia International Film Festival is The Block Island Sound. Written and directed by Kevin and Matthew McManus (Funeral Kings, American Vandal), the film combines elements of aquatic and cosmic horror to create something truly wonderful. The film first introduces us to Tom Lynch, a father and grandfather who has been acting strangely recently. Shortly after his daughter and granddaughter come to the island to investigate strange occurrences with the local wildlife, he disappears. When the same strange behaviors start to happen to Tom’s son, it becomes clear there is some outside force making this happen. The McManus brothers do a brilliant job of subverting expectations and creating suspense out of the unknown. It creates a wonderful and frightening mystery with many twists and turns.

There is a lot to love about this film. The Block Island Sound has elements of both aquatic horror and cosmic horror, which seems to be increasingly popular recently. This combination works very well and allows for the McManus brothers to keep the audience guessing. The film also focuses a lot on the various members of the Lynch family. Great care is taken to properly develop these characters and show the various dynamics of the family unit. It makes viewers care a great deal more about what will happen to the Lynches, which only adds to the suspense.

With how important the family members are to the plot, it’s no wonder The Block Island Sound has such a fantastic cast. Neville Archambault (13 Cameras, Solomon Grundy) plays Tom Lynch. Archambault delivers quite a disturbing performance that at first makes Tom appear to be losing his sanity, but quickly veers into a more disturbing realm. Chris Sheffield (The Maze Runner, The Last Ship) plays Tom’s son, Harry. Harry has a bit of a temper, but he clearly loves his family. When the strange occurrences begin to change Harry, Sheffield delivers a wonderful, gut-wrenching performance. Michaela McManus (Law & Order: SVU, Into the Grizzly Maze) plays Harry’s sister, Audry. McManus conveys how practical and level-headed Audry is. Even when things take a turn for the worse, her calm and maternal instincts make her the most capable person to handle whatever comes her way. Sheffield and McManus also act very well together, perfectly portraying siblings who have a love-hate relationship with each other.

There is a balance of what is shown and what is hidden that is beautiful in The Block Island Sound. For the most part, we only see the environmental effects of whatever is happening on Block Island. Bodies of dead fish and birds that have mysteriously died on the shores of the island make up most of the physical presence of the strange happenings. Subtle makeup also creates a haunting look on both Tom and Harry to show how they are physically affected by whatever is causing their strange behavior. The source of the strange happenings is kept hidden, allowing the audience’s imagination to run wild. Instead, the source is made known by a strange sound that clearly triggers Tom and Harry to act strangely (hence the title, The Block Island Sound). Gorgeous cinematography helps to emphasize the beauty and strangeness of Block Island. It all harmonizes to incite anxiety and fear in the audience.

The Block Island Sound brings together the best parts of cosmic and aquatic horror to deliver a hauntingly wonderful film. The McManus brothers created a film that brings depth to the plot by focusing on the family as much as it focuses on the more frightening elements. The entire cast delivers brilliant performances that only add to the well-written characters. The Block Island Sound is definitely one of my favorite films of the year, so far, and it’s a film that will haunt you long after it’s over.


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