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Suspension (2015)
Tonight's Feature Presentation


Starring: Ellen MacNevin, Sage Brocklebank, Taylor Russell, Duncan Ollerenshaw, Johannah Newmarch

Written By: Kevin Mosley Directed By: Jeffery Scott Lando

The Shot

A tour of the midnight horror movie experience that’s self aware without sacrificing the thrills, Suspension is a bloody well crafted discovery worth making.

The Highball

What Kind Of Cheese Is It?


The gold standard midnight movie meal.  (Extra points to you if you’re picturing a Panagopolous box.)

Pairs Well With...


My midnight movie go-to from once upon a time in Vancouver.  It still works.

“Is it who I think it is?”

There’s so much cool stuff to see at Phoenix Comicon that goes beyond the realm of comic books.  Case in point: the accompanying film festival, which features movies of many genres, including horror.   It is through this festival – and a small twist of fate – that I was able to have a look at the exceptionally fresh-in-the-can (so fresh that it theoretically hadn’t had its North American premiere yet) flick Suspension.

The movie was supposed to start at 5:30, while the sun was still high outside, but the projection equipment had other plans; and so the screening was bumped until 9:30, after darkness had fallen.  This worked out well for me, as I wouldn’t have been able to make the earlier screening, and it also worked out well for the spirit of the film, I think.  Why?  Because some movies are made to be midnight movies, and if they can’t have the witching hour, they at least demand the dark.

Suspension is very much a midnight movie, and I mean that in the very best sense of the term.

There’s quite a bit about Suspension that’s familiar, and that’s perfectly okay; after all, horror – especially elimination horror – is a genre built around familiarity.  Half the joy of these movies is picking out the formula elements and seeing what kind of twists the cast and crew give them.  It doesn’t matter how many scores of outcast “high school girls” (cough) we’ve encountered as protagonists in these things; we want to see how this one handles the job.  (Hold that thought.)  It doesn’t matter if we’ve witnessed what a guy in a mask and coveralls can do with a butcher knife a hundred times before; we’re excited to see what this guy does with the butcher knife.  (It’s pretty nasty.)  The funhouse is fun in part because we have some idea of what to expect.  These filmmakers get that, and so they play by the rules (except for the one about showers; sorry), but – this is the important part – they don’t just stop with the formula and call it a day.  Familiar though many of its elements are (and no, I won’t spoil the fun by telling you where from), Suspension remembers to tell its own unique story presented in its own unique style.

The formula and the twists: two for two.  Tack on a wickedly fun sense of humor that neither negates the thrills nor insults the viewer’s intelligence, and there’s the trifecta.

Suspension lives or dies based on the strength of its protagonist, Emily; between Kevin Mosley’s script and Ellen MacNevin’s performance, a “nailed it” badge is earned.  MacNevin is magnetic, portraying Emily with all the genuine humanity in the world and giving the character life beyond the archetype.  Unlike so much slasher bait out there, she’s easy to care about and impossible to root against.  And yet, for all the sympathy MacNevin brings to the character, she also brings an edge both brittle and hard that serves the story magnificently as events unfold.  And hey – how about that sketchbook to make her stand out from the Final Girl crowd?

Ellen MacNevin’s performance is enhanced by the film’s presentation, which holds a suspenseful atmosphere that takes a few extra cues along the way from Emily herself.  The kills – that other essential ingredient to any decent elimination horror flick – are satisfying, with enough variety to keep most fans happy without going completely overboard.  And then there’s that thing where the color occasionally fades out to black and white…  Maybe you’ll catch it; maybe you won’t.  But it is well done.

As is what may be the single most delicate element of all: the humor.  Laughs are an essential part of these movies, but there has to be a balance.  Too many, and the horror and suspense get undermined; too few, and the horror starts to become oppressive or even boring.  Suspension strikes the balance beautifully, with plenty of thanks going to co-producer Sage Brocklebank, who plays the at times surreal role of Deputy Jacobs very deftly indeed.  He makes the character funny without turning him into a buffoon (never a guarantee in these films!), and the fact that he doesn’t laugh at his own jokes allows the audience to do the laughing for him.  All I’m going to say here is… electric knife.  Wow.

Definitely not what I was expecting to see when I first walked into Phoenix Comicon the day before, but I certainly won’t complain about a pleasant surprise.

Is this to say that Suspension is perfect?  No.  Unfortunately, there is a fair amount of screen time devoted to the planning and near execution of a party rape (which, thankfully, doesn’t quite get the chance to occur, but damn, there’s major lead up), and it’s an unnecessary side trip that just doesn’t belong there and could easily have been avoided.  (It took me right out of the moment, and honestly, the use of rape as a story device to prove that a character and his friends are assholes is an extremely tired trope that needs to go away.)  It’s the one squicky black mark I have against a movie that otherwise is a whole lot of fun.

With that said, I prefer to dwell on the fun, and if you, like me, are a connoisseur of midnight horror flicks, I think you will, too.  Blockbuster may be gone, but Suspension is proof that the spirit of late night video store raids is alive and well, and that there are filmmakers who are happy to pay true genre fans back with lovingly crafted goodness.  Give it a shot; you won’t be sorry.

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- Reviewed by Ziggy Berkeley, June, 2015

Film screened at the Phoenix Comicon 2015 Film Festival

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