Ambition. Murder. Insanity. I can't think of three better words to describe any good thriller. And yes reader, they all fit nicely when describing this film. Straight away, let me just say I don't know anything about "Macbeth" save a series of images, and even parodies, of what I assume are famous scenes. What does that have to do with "The Letter Red" you ask? As far as I can tell, this movie is a modern take on this particular Shakespeare favorite. Since I don't know much about the source material, from this point on, I will not compare or mention it. Now that that's out of the way...
The normal mental state of people is relative. Some people come across as bat shit crazy when in fact, they are smart, normal men and women. Hell. Many people believe that greatness is only achieved by people who are different. The truly happy or content see and interact with the world slightly differently. Take Jane Macbeth for example. A pleasant enough woman. Polite and soft spoken yet... different. Introverted and a little sketchy. It really isn't hard to imagine that a mental break-down is always just beneath the surface, kind of like the woman living two doors down from me. Friendly. Common place. A little different but normal all things considered. Her husband John on the other hand, is the proverbial other side of the coin. Smart. Ambitious. Willing to do the work to get ahead. Maybe a little heavy on the "willing" side, but the perfect compliment to Jane. It's easy to see how this couple "works" within their relationship dynamic - and life is good right now. Upcoming promotion. New home. New life. Right? The American dream personified and brought to life.
That is, until John's sleazy boss gives him the run around regarding a big promotion. One John did, in fact, earn and was promised. Without that extra money, John and Jane simply can't afford this new life - and somehow John has to make it right. Remember what I wrote above? John's willingness to do whatever it takes? According to Joston Theney, Edward Gusts and Arielle Brachfeld, that amounts to murder - and John happily, although accidentally complies. Perhaps waiting on that promotion was a mistake. Now he can just skip the managerial line and move straight to the top.
However, things don't end with that. Dealing with her own issues, once Jane hears what happened she decides to deal with her own problems a little differently than maybe she would have. There simply must be consequences for anyone who crosses the line. Maybe not murder, but something. What follows is a trip down the murderous rabbit hole for this ill fated couple. As Jane slowly slips into the realm of the insane, John becomes more and more driven to do whatever it takes to protect his family unit. Yes readers... the bodies pile up. Things get increasingly weird and tense. Overall, this was a pleasant, creepy film to watch. Almost enough to make me want to look up some classic plays from a long dead playwright. Almost enough.
The performances displayed in this film are really great. Of course, Arielle Brachfeld and Edward Gusts, as Jane and John, pull off their respective characters seemingly with ease. Considering we are dealing with elements of madness and ambition, this was all especially refreshing - seeing how right these two presented their characters. Yet the really cool aspect of "The Letter Red" was that the supporting cast gracefully kept pace. Joston Theney as the dick-boss, and even Arielle Hader as the ever important gumshoe, really did provide memorable performances. As far as secondary characters go, if you still remember their scenes hours later... they've done something right. The fact is this. I can't think of any performances, from anyone, that felt scripted or hollow. Chalk it up to the great casting of the film, or Joston Theney's ability to direct... either way... thumbs up.
One aspect of this movie I don't want to leave out is the atmosphere. I can't put my finger on exactly why... but this is a tense film. One that gets increasingly creepy/more tense as the scenes go on. The acting. The punk-ish music and strange audio. Maybe even the editing itself? I don't quite know why, but this is a nail biter of a movie... for sure.
And finally... the audio. "The Letter Red" contains numerous inconsistent moments of audio imperfections. Wind noise, uneven levels. You name it. But here's the thing. As much as you notice it, it may not be such a bad thing. I couldn't help but wonder if the imperfect audio actually contributes to that uneasy feeling you get when watching. I suppose other viewers will have to decide for themselves... but I'm on the fence about it.
In the end, "The Letter Red" contained much more than I bargained for. It's unusual for me to find an indie, lower budget film that actually holds some real tension. A real sense of unease. Things are not all perfect, but that's alright. Bottom line? Don't judge a book by it's cover. I can't say I'm impressed by the poster design, but I am impressed by the film. "The Letter Red" earns every star I awarded. Excellent work. Period.