Modern horror has this tendency to go from 0 to 60 in seconds, and doesn't let up on the gas until the conclusion. Start with a bang, keep them guessing, end on a high note, cut, print, repeat. While this formula works for some, other times it's the slow-burn, Rosemary's Baby-like yarns that stick with viewers long after the climax. Thus we have Dean Kapsalis' The Swerve, which world premiered at Chicago's Cinepocalypse this weekend with its own brand of psychodrama and compelling character work.
In the midst of keeping her family together, Holly (Azura Skye) suffers a bite from a rat. Slowly but surely, things begin to unravel. Add sister Claudia (Ashley Bell) and her on-again, off-again rehab stints, and Holly's student Paul (Zach Rand), with his fascination with Holly, and we're led wonder: can things ever return to the way they were?
In its 90-minute runtime, The Swerve moves from familial melodrama to harrowing psychological thriller almost seamlessly. There's not a scene that feels out of place or that drones on for too long without good reason. The one time a scene goes on for painfully long, a scene involving rat poison, it has meaning, it has power, and it had feeling every frame of it. The pacing is some of the best I've seen in some time, in any genre. While I won't give away the absolute gut punch of a final sequence, I will say this: just when you think you know what will happen next, you don't.
Azura Skye's performance as Holly, our troubled teacher, is something to behold. Holly is not a character to be wholly liked, yet sympathetic, and the portrayal by Skye is top-notch. She makes the character come fully alive, at times doing her best when she says very little. This seems to be the real takeaway from The Swerve.
Don't come into this looking for a body count or loads of gore. Come for the storyline, stay for the execution and the unraveling of the yarn that writer/director Dean Kapsalis has woven here.
Just, for the love of everything, don't eat the pie.