Pretty grunge chick Ada (Lisa Friedrich) has been going steady with loyal slacker Calvin (Michael Foulk) for three years. They seem to be devoted to one another. But there's a major problem that's increasingly coming between them. Whenever they attempt intimacy, Ada recoils after getting so far into it.
They visit a relationship counsellor (Kara Rainer) who quizzes Ada about her upbringing. It soon transpires that Ada can't remember a thing about her childhood, which leads the therapist to suggest that she may be suppressing bad memories - which could most likely also be the root of her current sexual dysfunction. Was Ada abused as a child?
There's only way to find out. And so, Calvin organises a road trip for the pair of them. Off they drive to the remote Texan town of Sheol where Ada grew up. Her mother has moved away, but her aunt Lindsay (Jill Thompson) remains. Maybe she has some answers for them?
Alas, Lindsay is more than a little odd. Firstly, she's covered in strange facial injuries and behaves extremely jittery around her visitors. She allows Ada and Calvin to stay the night but insists they sleep in separate rooms (something they renege upon when her psychotic partner Davis [David Laurence] returns during the night, screaming abusively at her: they wind up cuddling in together for comfort). Lindsay and Davis are not the only oddballs they encounter: an early trip to Sheol's local convenience store is abruptly curbed when the religious zealot owner points a loaded gun in Calvin's face for no good reason.
The following morning brings a trip to the local church where Ada is determined to find out more about her mysterious background - like why can't she remember her own history, and why has her family home seemingly vanished from the face of the Earth? The preacher there, Woodward (pro-wrestler Dustin Runnels), offers little enlightenment - other than to reaffirm to Sheol is full of religious loonies. In particular, he freaks Calvin out by telling him people come to Sheol to die - something we've witnessed in the excellent pre-credits introductory scene - and that he's willing to assist he and Ada in their suicides...
Lost, far from home, surrounded by a community of apparent madmen and scared for their lives, can Ada and Calvin escape their present predicament while unearthing the secrets of her past?
Written by Brandon Stroud and based loosely upon anecdotes from the childhood of his friend Destiny D Talley, MEET ME THERE is directed by Lex Lyland.
From the offset, this doesn't feel like a run-of-the-mill contemporary horror film. Its laidback slacker style evokes lo-fi indie films of the 1990s. This is amplified by the mumbling central performances and the script's emphasis on characterisation over action. An alt-rock soundtrack and self-consciously grainy élan further the film's bid for indie cool, as do a host of Lynchian peripheral characters (off-kilter shopkeepers, enigmatic singing teenagers etc).
Performances are very good for the most part. Thompson appears to be acting in a tonally different film to everyone else though: her performance is theatrical, in stark contrast to the more considered, restrained efforts of her co-stars.
A slow start helps us warm to the two leads, but perhaps could've done with revealing the more sinister side of Sheol a little earlier - by the time Lyland ups the ante (quite effectively, admittedly), it all feels a little rushed. Still the transition from grungy relationship drama to druid-influenced bucolic horror successfully recalls the likes of KILL LIST. Which is no bad thing.
Like KILL LIST though, MEET ME THERE ends on ambiguous note which very deliberately refuses to tie up loose ends. Some will appreciate that; others will leave infuriated.
MEET ME THERE is presented uncensored and in its original 2.35:1 ratio on this disc. The picture is enhanced for 16x9 televisions. Colours are strong and natural, while detail remains fine throughout. Blacks are a little washed out at times and there is quite a grainy structure to proceedings, lending events an oddly appropriate feeling of scuzziness.
English 2.0 audio does a sound job throughout. Easily readable optional English Hard-of-Hearing subtitles are a welcome extra, even if they do tend to be slightly behind the spoken words on screen.
MVD Visual's region-free DVD opens to a static main menu page. There is no scene selection option but the film does have 28 chapters.
Bonus features begin with a 3-and-a-half minute interview with Runnels. He's in relaxed mode as he speaks about preparing for his most violent scene, not allowing his kids to watch as he became psychotic for the camera, and more.
Thompson is also interviewed over the course of 5-and-a-half minutes. She reveals the extent of the make-up applied to her face for the film (bruises, cigarette burns etc) and reveals how pleased she was when offered such a meaty role from Stroud's impressive screenplay.
The film's ambient "theatrical" trailer is also here. It clocks in at just 2 minutes in length.
There's also an informative and interesting audio commentary track from Lyland. This isn't advertised on the box OR in the bonus features menu page, but provides by far the most substantial extra. The director speaks about actors, locations, the heavy symbolism littered throughout, the true stories this film was based on and much more in this illuminating track.
MEET ME THERE offers something different from the norm, and stands apart from most modern US indie horror flicks. It may be a little too slow and ambiguous for some, but I found it highly rewarding in the main.
Review by Stuart Willis
|Released by MVD Visual|
|see main review|