Pushing the limits of narrative storytelling and documentary can get some directors in trouble. Non-narrative features force the audience to engage with the material. Yet this can also lead to beautiful, emotional reactions to these stories. Director Paul Owens uses his background as a documentary filmmaker to craft a visually unique and ambitious film. Landlocked shines a unique experience, touching the corners of sci-fi and horror to create surprisingly upsetting images.

Mason (Mason Owens) returns home after the death of his father. As he explores the items in his childhood home, he sees shadows of the past. A series of VHS tapes and a camcorder allows Mason to relive his memories. However, as he falls deeper and deeper into his memories, he begins to notice unusual visions. To understand the mystery, he dives deeper and deeper into the videos and into the secrets of the house.

Landlocked 2023 Paul Owens

Paul Owens (referred to as Paul moving forward) built the film around his own home videos. In fact, the majority of the cast are family members, and they’ve agreed to play fictional versions of themselves. This helps with the chemistry between the characters, as there’s an unspoken shorthand that comes through in each interaction. A simple look or gesture takes on different meaning to these performers, and it filters into their performances. Paul deserves credit for taking non-professional actors, and pulling real performances out of the cast.

Additionally, the editing and blocking of shots shows Paul truly has an eye for imagery. Many of his most intriguing visuals involve our POV camera looking at the camcorder images to create in-camera effects. The initial image, plus the use of a reverse shot of Mason helps hammers home the emotional stakes.

Some will struggle with Landlocked‘s slow burn approach, because the horror elements come later than one may expect. This gives Landlocked a lackadaisical feel, and for a memory play, evokes a very different aesthetic before the shift to horror. This clashing of tones will be tough for some audiences. However, if you stay with Landlocked in its final act, much of the catharsis and heart of the film comes shining through.

Landlocked 2023 Paul Owens

Finally, Paul’s choice to use his own family footage adds a meta-textual element to the film. One has to wonder how long Paul scoured over his own family’s footage and imagined how they would fit within the context of a narrative film. It’s a surprisingly intimate look inside the life of the director, and as a result, it makes Landlocked more intriguing.

Paul Owens showcases some true talent in Landlocked, and crafts some very unique visuals in the process. While the narrative runs a little thin, and the tonal balance can use a little more development, Paul emerges as a voice to watch. Hopefully he continues to play with genre in the future, because any production companies should be looking to be in business with the talented filmmaker.

Alan’s Rating: 7/10

What do you think of Landlocked? Let us know in the comments below! Dark Sky Films distributes Landlocked. Landlocked releases on January 6th, 2023.

Please check out other Sunshine State Cineplex reviews here!

Landlocked 2023 Paul Owens Poster

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