This debut film by Andrew Patterson blew me away, reminding me of Blood Simple (Coen Brothers), It Follows (David Robert Mitchell), Blue Ruin (Jeremy Saulnier) and The Babadook (Jennifer Kent). The trajectories of the careers of these first or near-first time writer-directors varies, but the skill and care taken in their early work is astounding. I can’t speak much about the plot of Patterson’s film, which centers on a New Mexico disc jockey and phone operator who stumble on a strange frequency over their wires in the 1950s, because it is a “whodunit/whatisit” to its core. But Patterson’s assured manner heightens tension and drives a narrative in an almost Hitchcockian style (without being showy), and his attention to detail is impressive. The film is hair-raising and creepy, but never overt; you feel as if you’re another denizen of the town, with Patterson letting you in on the mystery.
The picture has its flaws (tracking shots that at times feel gratuitous, a lead who speaks rat-a-tat tat with a cigarette in his mouth which at one point almost made me turn on English subtitles, and an ending that almost feels stubborn in it anticlimactic lack of convention), but now is the time to buy stock in Patterson. Currently on Amazon Prime.