Character studies can often be the scariest types of horror films. Going inside the minds and motivations of humans, especially those who are unravelling, can be a frightening endeavour. Even the most seemingly mundane person can actually be a raving lunatic with homocidal tendencies. At least according to co-screenwriter/director Kasra Farahani’s (The Good Neighbor) film, Tilt.
Pregnancy always puts a strain on a relationship. Especially the first time a couple discovers they are going to have a baby. Everything changes. Some handle it better than others. Modern day society is filled with all kinds of stress. Expectations. Money. Career. Direction. All these things seem to be crashing in on Joseph (Joseph Cross – Lincoln, Milk) even though it seems like he has a great little life. He is married to a woman he loves, is doing something he is passionate about (documentary film making) and they are about to have a child. But quickly you see there are cracks. Cracks which reveal themselves to be crevices. And crevices which are actually canyons.
Joanne (Alexia Rasmussen – Our Idiot Brother, Listen to Your Heart) is pregnant and although it was not a planned pregnancy both she and Joseph seem happy about it. Joseph, after a mild success with his first documentary film Tilt, is working on his next one which is about America’s Golden Age. She is working as a nurse and studying for entrance into medical school. Things seem to be going well for the young couple.
That is until you realize that something is off with Joseph. Why does he feel so intellectually superiour to everyone? Why is he obsessed with Trump though he claims to hate him? Why does he wander the streets of his Los Angeles suburb late at night looking for trouble? Why does he ask a man why he isn’t married while holding a power tool menacingly? Why is he constantly googling the name of some random Japanese man? Something is going on with Joseph.
Though we have been told time and time again that this is the least violent time period in human existence I cannot help but feel there is something boiling just under the surface waiting to explode. People are unhappy and frustrated which is a dangerous combination. The world is changing quickly and humans, though they claim otherwise, don’t like radical change. Especially those who have traditionally been in charge. That would be white men. Many white men are feeling persecuted or their dominance threatened. The result is that they will do anything to retain control. Rage is the result. Making America great again (Trump and his catch phrase are everywhere in the film) is not happening and white males don’t know what to do.
Lead actor Joseph Cross is fabricating a fairly interesting CV. Besides working on some big films his latest turn is in the hugely successful HBO series, Big Little Lies. With his turn in Tilt he is only adding to his resume. A very muted and controlled portrayal of a man in the process of losing his mind and turning unexpectedly to violence. It would have been easy to go completely over the top with Joseph, but Cross reins things in nicely making what unfolds even more creepy.
Farahani, who has also worked on the art department on big time films like Star Trek: Into Darkness and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, also amplifies the creepiness of the film by saturating almost every moment of the compact 99 minutes of the film with a sense of dread. Something awful this way comes always seems to around every corner in Tilt. Whether it is Joseph taking a picture of a tourist at a look out or him playing pinball in the nude. There is always that feeling like he is about to explode. He is a man going through a schism.
To make horror work it has to be steeped in reality. There can be all the gore and violence you can stuff into it, but if it doesn’t make the audience feel like this could happen on some level then it fails. Tilt succeeds because of the kernel of truth in the middle of it. White men are entitled and as things are not working out how they want they are lashing out. All of us can see a Joseph around us every day. And that is what is truly frightening about this film.