Film Review: Desolation

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Katie Connor (Dominik García-Lorido) is in a dismal rut, working at a dreary hotel in Elmira, New York, and suffering nightmares and other aftereffects of having been sexually assaulted, effects that prescription medications merely dull. Fortunately, her loyal best friend Debbie (Ninja N. Devoe) looks out for her and even persuades Katie to go out on an emotional limb when cute actor Jay Cutter (Brock Kelly), star of such less than impressive-sounding pictures as Bow Hunter 3, books a room while he's working nearby.

Suddenly, Katie's fortunes change. After a date so awkward that it becomes a bonding experience, she and Jay hit it off and he soon asks her to join him in L.A. for a few days. And she's just sick enough of her life to throw caution to the wind and go. True, his apartment turns out to be kind of gloomy and in a building that's under renovation, but it has a roof deck with a pool and Jay is sweet and attentive; he plies her with gifts (free swag, he says modestly) and even takes Katie to a swanky Hollywood party.

Katie isn't thrilled when he announces that he needs to leave town for a quick gig, but what could happen? Especially since Jay's close friend, elderly priest Father Bill O'Shea (Raymond J. Barry), is right upstairs and assures her she's always welcome to drop by.

Well, sure enough, the weird stuff begins. Creepy phone calls, an unsettling feeling that she's being spied upon, odd encounters with neighbors and even strangers on the street. Perhaps Katie is being targeted by some mysterious psycho…or is it just that she's gone off her meds and the old demons are rearing their poisonous heads?

Longtime actor and producer David Moscow's directing debut, written by Craig Walendziak and Matthew McCarty, is a variation on a horror staple: A woman, isolated and terrorized by an unknown tormentor. And it does an above-average job of making it play, especially given that Katie isn't stuck in a cabin in the woods—she's in an apartment building in a good neighborhood in a major U.S. city, which requires inventing a steady stream of reasonably plausible ways to keep her trapped and without recourse.

It's also a gamble to make it clear from the outset that the apartment is full of cameras and there's a live feed going somewhere. That's not a spoiler, since it's revealed early, and it ups the stakes. Desolation isn't a genre-changer, but it's tightly plotted and the three leads deliver genuinely compelling performances—a felicitous combination.

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