The Samaritans

Movie Review: The Samaritans 2019

TIMES SQUARE GOSSIP EXCLUSIVE: The Samaritans is a new thriller from Viva Pictures being released on digital and on demand April 16 2019 and that date can’t come soon enough. It is a rare movie where the “making of” story is as intriguing as its polished finished product. It is not hyperbole to put The Samaritans on the same list as other micro-budget success stories, Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity, two other independent horror/thrillers that transcended their limitations while leaving an indelible mark on the genre.

Simply put, this creepy thriller is based on a premise that brings four co-workers together for the first time to complete work on a new app. The quirky quartet apparently has only collaborated online so their face-to-face meeting seems to carry some additional weight. They quickly complete their task and celebrate their “Spin-the-Bottle” for the smart phone era with a toast that leads directly to each of them passing out.

They awaken in chairs that surround a table adorned with guess what…a bottle. They are unable to move their hands and feet, the accusations fly, and the aforementioned bottle starts rotating on its own. That’s when the real tense ride begins. With each phantom spin of the bottle, new information is revealed, secrets are discovered, and the stakes get precipitously higher.

Clever storytelling, committed performances, and a grim overall look make this tiny film loom large in the morass of typical low-budget scare flicks. Frank (Keith Collins), the uptight manager, Rosie (Annelise Nielsen), the intelligent copywriter, Daisy (Timothy Harrison), the spirited social media expert, and Eddie (Doug Bollinger), the washed up marketing guru, all deliver their crackling dialogue with sincerity and urgency in a taut, suspenseful 76 minutes.

The sometimes hilarious but always creepy interactions help to spin a yarn that unfolds in a way that respects its audience. Each morsel of information is dangled for the viewer like bait leading to a psychological trap that this humble reviewer did not see coming. And frankly, I did watch it a second time just to see if I missed clues or did the left turn ending come from nowhere. This is where my positive conclusions grew to a higher stratosphere. Cinematic breadcrumbs that you just don’t find at this budget level were dropped throughout the film and that confident, thoughtful storytelling is what elevates The Samaritans to hidden gem status.

According to the filmmakers, they shot this film over a four day weekend in two rooms with basically one light. The Samaritans was written and directed by Doug Bollinger, based on the story by Keith Collins. It stars Keith Collins, Doug Bollinger, Timothy Laurel Harrison & Annelise Nielsen. Cinematography by Cory Green creates a dank basement setting that serves the story well. Haunting sound design by Matt Grego utilizes original music by singer/songwriter Olivia Bec adds to the wonderfully unnerving atmosphere. Green & Grego also served as the mastermind editors.

A six member team created what could very well possibly be the best indie standout of 2019. That is what brings me back to the earlier comparisons. We know as much about the legendary obstacles Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity faced as we do about those finished films. Like both of those milestone movies, The Samaritans is flawed. The exposition is a bit generic, the effects are wanting, and the poster does not do the tone of the film justice. But like those two films, The Samaritans far exceeds its limitations to create something we might be hearing about for quite some time.

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