AMONG THEM opens to a black screen. We see nothing, but we hear an awful lot of panicked confusion as it soon becomes apparent we are bearing witness, aurally, to a botched bank heist. Shots are fired as the robbers make their getaway.

Meet the mismatched Harry (Jonathan Thomson) and Mick (Dan Liebman). The perpetrators of the above crime. Harry's a middle-aged Bible-reading man who thinks predicaments through and remains calm under pressure; Mick's the younger wild card, quick to fly off the handle. We meet them as they arrive at a sleepy coastal town and prepare to check in to a motel under false names: imaginatively, they've opted for ""Larry" and "Nick". Harry's suffered a gunshot to his torso and is therefore taking pills for the pain. The pair of them are here to wait for the arrival of the crime boss they've never met - a man named Greyhurst, who they've only ever caught glimpse of in the form of one archive photograph.

Harry spins a yarn to the motel's peculiar clerk (Michael Reed), and within minutes is clutching the keys to a twin room. The plan at this point is to wait there for Greyhurst, hand over the loot and receive their cut, and then flee to Prague - where Harry reckons his life of crime will finally be over.

But Greyhurst doesn't show. "They" always leave plans in the getaway car, Mick suddenly remembers ... so maybe they should consult those plans, see if they've changed? Mick and Harry go to check the car for instructions, which are normally stored in the glove compartment. Nope, not this time - nothing there. So they proceed to search the remainder of the car, which is when they discover a young lady tied up and gagged with gaffer tape in the boot. They didn't put her there: could they possibly have jumped into the wrong car?

The confused hoodlums wait until dusk before carrying their unexpected hostage into their motel room. She's called Syd (Evalena Marie) and has an unkempt waif-like allure to her similar to that of FIGHT CLUB's Marla Singer. "We gotta take care of this" gasps Mick. Harry argues that they don't who she is, why she's there or who put her there. If they harm her, there could be greater ramifications in the long run.

Venturing out to the nearest payphone, Harry rings a contact number they've been given to ask where the fuck Greyhurst is. The voice on the other end of the line tells him he was last known as being en route and "always keeps his appointments ... stay put". Harry and Mick have little choice but to oblige and extend their reservation at the motel.

They bribe Syd to talk without screaming by offering to hand-feed her a burger. She's insistent that she doesn't know who abducted her or why she was thrown into the back of a car. Has she heard of Greyhurst? Yeah, her ex-boyfriend Ben mentioned him a few times, but she merely assumed he was his boss.

Harry cuffs Syd's hands and ushers her underneath the bed in the spare bedroom, unsure of what else he can do with her.

Up until this point, I'm sure everything plot-wise sounds fairly conventional. Reading it back to myself, the synopsis at this juncture could even be read as being rather comedic. But all of this presented in an unerringly earnest manner. Things are about to get strange.

The stressed-out Mick calls a prostitute he knows called Ginger (Sarah Nicklin) to relieve himself. She turns up shortly afterwards; Harry reads the bible in bed in the corner of the room as Ginger dances for Mick. Then, there comes a knock from the other room - and in walks Harry with an un-cuffed Syd beside him, promising that she'll keep quiet. She even offers to join in when Mick takes Ginger into the second bedroom. This freaks Ginger out to the point that she promptly vacates the situation - leaving Mick free to make out with Syd, which turns out to merely be a ruse so he can cuff her again and leave her alone in the spare room.

Okay, that's a strange way to end their first evening (there's no explanation as to the un-cuffing). And the wait for Greyhurst continues into the next day ...

The following morning, Harry is out ringing on the payphone again to get an update on where Greyhurst could be. While he's absent, Mick goes to check on Syd ... and finds her tied in gaffer tape in the shower. The money he and Harry stole for Greyhurst is missing. Syd claims to have no knowledge of what happened. Who could have taken the loot? Greyhurst's runner (Bernie Hutchens), who turned up to take $5,000 initial money off Harry? Or perhaps one of the motel staff? Have our intrepid pair of robbers been set up? Is Syd in on the deception? They question the clerk about "something" having been taken from their room but he claims ignorance, though cryptically tells them "if you lost it, maybe it wasn't yours to begin with". Paranoia is setting in - "it feels like an inside job", Harry muses.

It's at this point that AMONG THEM starts to get seriously bizarre. We get flashbacks (glimpses of said heist, which reveal there was a getaway driver - Keith [Nick Apostolides] - who got shot at the scene and ultimately left behind); paranoia grows, resulting in Harry's nosebleeds becoming more severe; our three protagonists each begin to realise they are hallucinating, possibly, as events take on a surreal bent. From here on after this turns into a succession of confusingly nightmarish trifles with time which would have lazy writers screaming "Lynchian" all over the place.

Director Kevin James Barry and screenwriter Evalena Marie should be commended for refusing to pander to insulting their audience by delivering answers to every question. I also enjoyed how their stylishly-shot, handsome low budget film segues naturally from a crime thriller and into full-blown horror territory - complete with some satisfying practical gore - during its final third.

Performances are generally good. The spotlight belongs to Thomson: he's particularly impressive as the older, more pragmatic but generally warm crook. Even when events become more claustrophobic and manic in the last thirty minutes, this guy's mania is tempered by his counterbalancing calm. He's very believable in his role. Marie is persuasive too.

AMONG THEM will suffer in reviews, I feel, mainly due to its over-reliance on ambiguity. It's all good that Barry and Marie have seemingly conspired to fashion a film which doesn't play to linear convention and refuses point-blank to resolve its own conundrums, but the obscurity of its narrative is likely to infuriate the casual viewer. I enjoyed it, aesthetically, conceptually, I really did - and I found my own understanding of what was going on (the heavy symbolism of the Bible and mentions of possession influenced me, rightly or wrongly) but ... this film is left open to a lot of interpretation. I interpreted in one way (I can't divulge my conclusion without giving spoilers, sorry). I'm satisfied with my own reading - but I may very well be wrong on my own take.

Especially as I sat through the closing titles, enjoying the light-hearted disclaimer "Got a problem with the names of characters or the events depicted? Too Bad. All this shit is purely fictitious" ... only for that to be followed by a very brief post-credits scene (yeah, watch until the very end) which I didn't get the relevance of at all. And that scene, albeit 2 seconds long, may be the key to the whole thing?!

But I did enjoy AMONG THEM. It's been put together well and I've no doubt whatsoever that its more vague qualities are entirely intentional. You can't accuse a film of this nature of having plot-holes - you're inviting ridicule upon yourself.

We were sent an online screener link for AMONG THEM and the film looked very good in an uncut (1 hour and 28 minutes) presentation which preserved the original, attractively-framed 2.35:1 ratio while offering sharp images and what seems to be an accurately muted colour scheme. Strong English stereo audio also benefits this production.

AMONG THEM is distributed by Cinema Epoch and is streaming now on Amazon Prime and Tubi TV.

If you do watch it, please let me know how you interpreted it!

Review by Stuart Willis

Released by Cinema Epoch