Sometimes successful and critically acclaimed horror films need big budgets, a high-class polish, Hollywood names and top-notch special effects but sometimes all they need is (mostly) two actors, three cameramen and two iPhones. That’s all co-directors Powell Robinson and Patrick R. Young needed to film Salem Horror Fest’s Threshold.
Threshold tells the story of estranged and distant siblings Virginia (Madison West) and Leo (Joe Millin) as they are unexpectedly thrust together when Virginia believes she was the victim of a cult who have cursed her to be bonded to another stranger. A reluctant and disbelieving Leo agrees to help her track down the stranger she’s bonded to, but if it all turns out to not be real, the troubled Virginia has to check herself into rehab.
The performances from West and Millin are fundamental to the success of a movie like Threshold, because you really need to care about the characters, buy into their strained relationship and then not only will them to get closer, but to also will them to survive. Thankfully both of the film’s leads are up to the task and create a brilliant brother/sister dynamic; nailing the familiar chemistry and clear love they have for each other.
What follows is essentially a road-movie family drama as Virginia and Leo learn to be brother and sister again, slowly improving their relationship as the film progresses, all disguised with moments of unsettling terror and constant reminders that perhaps Virginia really is cursed. The horror elements are basic yet surprisingly effective and chilling. They’re also sparsely used, disguising Threshold’s miniscule resources, but help to hold attention all the way until the finale, where the film finally shows its hand.
The ambiguity of what’s actually happening is crucial to the plot of the movie and is, obviously, a big trope of many horror movies. Is there a sinister supernatural force at work here, or is Virginia in desperate need of mental health help having made the whole thing up.
But the introduction of this trope plays really nicely into the relationship between brother and sister, with the brother having to choose whether or not to believe his sister and agree to help her without any evidence to support either possibility. This exploration of inherent blind-faith trust through the use of unseen dark forces works really well, especially with the film’s shocking, yet perfect final moments.
We’ve already seen one example of what exactly can be achieved with limited resources, talented actors in need of a big break and a lot of ingenuity in the horror genre with Shudder’s Host, a film shot entirely during the coronavirus pandemic induced lockdown and as innovative as it was frugal. Now Threshold can be added to the illustrious list of great and similar films.
You can find more of our Salem Horror Fest 2020 coverage here