"Bright Hill Road"
review by Diablo Joe
Bright Hill Road
Marcy is a drunk. A full-blown alcoholic, with none of the charming lush traits that cinema often gives its inebriates. Marcy's an ugly drunk so incompetent that, as a result, she doesn't just fail to report a deadly threat made to her by an employee fired as part of her job as an HR supervisor; she fails to even register it. So when the man returns the next day, shoots up her workplace leaving others dead and her alive, Marcy has pretty much found herself at rock bottom. Hoping a stay with her sister will turn her around, Marcy finds herself at a quaint little hotel called Bright Hill Road. She soon realizes Bright Hill Road has a history of visitors not unlike herself and requires its guests to confront their demons. And the hotel needs Marcy to face her dark secrets before being allowed to move on.
Fairly early on, it's obvious where "Bright Hill Road' is headed. This territory is well-trod, almost to a fault, in film and other media, so it's incumbent on director Robert Cuffley and writer Susie Moloney to bright something fresh and exciting to it. They succeed, to a degree. For the first half of Marcy's stay, the only other person at Bright Hill is Mrs. Inman, the hotel's stern, reserved keeper. Just as the film exhausts its possibilities between these two, it smartly introduces the devilish presence of Owen. He, like Marcy, is someone with a troubling secret, though far darker.
If you are willing to stick with "Bright Hill Road" until that point, it will be because of its lead, Siobhan Williams. Simply put, she holds this film together for its first half. Williams rarely resorts to a typical portrayal of a drunk. It can be a delicate balancing act between pathos and parody, and she confidently avoids the latter. She's believable. Broken, worn down, and weary. It's written across her face and in every gesture. It's an outstanding performance, and "Bright Hill Road" would be a lesser picture for her absence. Her interaction with actor Michael Eklund, who resembles a malevolent Ethan Hawke, elevates the second half with dark sexuality. It's the sort of dangerous dynamic probably recognizable to anyone familiar with substance abuse.
The scares and nightmarish scenes in "Bright Hill Road" are well-handled and, overall, reasonably effective. Director Cuffley keeps you guessing with some of these visuals. Are they real, or are they the effects of withdrawal, or are they the hotel's influence? The film is often as good at keeping its audience as disoriented as it is its main character. However, the film also feels the need to include a few tiresome jump scares into its mix.
At times you have to question just what "Bright Hill Road" is trying to say. There are tinges of religious symbolism that are never fully explored. A crucifix adorns the wall of Marcy's room, and later, Mrs. Inman (a name that's a bit too on-the-nose) leaves it for her upon her pillow. Owen makes some cryptic remarks about his father that may lead the audience to suspicion s about his identity (for good or ill). Even this is essentially a red herring.
So the big questions concerning "Bright Hill Road" are twofold. First, what are Cuffley and Moloney trying to do and say with the film? It certainly doesn't break any new ground, but it's decently well-made and quite well acted. But because it is such a familiar theme, and because we need to ask that first question at all, question two is: will audiences find it engaging enough to stick with it, and can "Bright Hill Road" win them over?
This devil of a reviewer gives "Bright Hill Road" 3 out of 5 imps
This devil of a reviewer gives “The Facility” 2 out of 5 imps