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Film Review: The Binding (2015)

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SYNOPSIS:

When her husband, Bram, becomes unstable, Sarah begins to fear for her life as well as her child’s. Can she help her husband, and herself, before all hell breaks loose?

REVIEW:

What if it’s true? Take it seriously for a second. Don’t just roll your eyes and dismiss the question like it’s a pop quiz dropped on you at school or another anti-team-building team building exercise at work. Don’t shut down and throw up blocks. Think about it; if it makes you feel a little more comfortable, consider it a take on Einstein’s thought experiment technique.

More comfortable now? Okay, so, what if it’s true, what if God exists? On a large scale, it has very little impact; it’s nearly incomprehensible, isn’t it? But think about it on a personal scale, on your scale. What if God is real, and he’s watching YOU, what do you do now? Really think about it. First, you might ask, who is he, and what is his relationship to you, other than being your creator? What does that even mean, when it comes right down to it? If he’s real, are there rules, then; are there boundaries and lines that aren’t to be crossed? And what about all that glop in the Bible, the Ten Commandments, and all that jazz? Or the Koran and all those regulations, for that matter? Let’s not stop there, though. Let’s take it a step further, to a whole other level of anxiety. How about this: what if he starts talking to you? Just to you. And what if he starts telling you to do something which is normally considered quite bad and very illegal? And what if he says if you don’t do it, he’ll destroy the world.

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Bringing to mind Celia Fremlin’s The Hours Before Dawn, the film opens with Sarah (Amy Gumenick) lying on a couch, staring directly at the camera, looking beyond exhausted; a baby is crying incessantly in the background, pressing the weight of the world down upon her. Wearily, she gets up to calm the child. She wanders down the hall to the baby’s room only to find it empty; frantic, she begins chasing the baleful sobs from room to room, finding nothing. Until she wakes up and finds the baby in the kitchen being held by Bram (Josh Heisler), the father, as he makes breakfast for everyone, producing a brightly lit domestic scene of picturesque pleasantry countering the sudden, high-pitched frenzy from her recent nightmare.

From this beginning, you would expect the film to be about the stress and uncertainty a new mother experiences, the fog of exhaustion altering judgements, doubts about her sanity, and doubts about her faltering perception of reality after so many sleepless nights. And, to a degree, you would be right. But, then, we’re immediately presented with another scene, a very subtle scene, yet slightly jarring, because it’s seldom observed anymore: the family sitting around the breakfast table, holding hands, and praying before they eat.

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We live in an age of non-belief; or at least, an age of belief which rejects the traditional forms of Christian worship. The average viewer is slightly stunned by the breakfast table scene, slightly embarrassed by it, may even snicker at it; these reactions do more than just reject traditional belief, they cover an uncertainty, they cover the trepidation over a question that dare not be asked, because it smacks of gravity and an obligation to serious thought.

Later on, half-way through the film, when the aforementioned domestic bliss has already been shattered by uncontrollable events, Bram, who is a church pastor, asks a member of his congregation, who’s child’s cries are distracting him from the sermon, if she understands how hard this is for him; when she responds that she doesn’t, he then aggressively demands to know how, if she cannot answer that one simple question, then what is she going to do on the day of her reckoning? “The day that Lord God comes to you and demands of you the impossible.

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The day the stakes are higher than you can imagine, and that doing the right thing will utterly damn you?” Of course, he’s referring to his own situation; he’s referring to earlier events in the film, to the horrifying question he’s been told he has to answer, and which is forcing him into a nervous breakdown.

Gus Krieger, who wrote and directed the film, takes material that, in lesser hands, would have resulted in an anti-religious screed and elevates it to a serious contemplative level by considering the faith of the characters non-judgmentally. He’s smart and respectful of the subject without being an advocate. An entry in the Left Behind series this most definitely is not.

He’s done his research and considered the point of gravity from all angles, giving the film a well-rounded and intelligent feel. His direction is clean and precise, adding yet another layer of high-end competence to the already solid craftsmanship. All of the actors are spot on with their performances, rarely, if ever, giving a false note. A commendable, earnest, and smart piece of art, and one of the most intelligent horror films I’ve seen in decades.

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Again, what if it’s true? In the end, does it matter? Of course, that all depends on what the voices ask you to do, doesn’t it?

Bonus Features

    • Over 20 Minutes Of Deleted Scenes
    • Cast Interviews With Amy Gumenick (Sarah Iman), Josh Heisler (Bram Iman) And Leon Russom (Minister Uriel)
    • Commentary Track With Writer And Director Gus Krieger
    • Teaser Trailer

The Binding is now available on bluray per Shout Factory

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