Block Island Poster

Review: The Block Island Sound (2020) – Fantasia

The Block Island Sound is a strait in the Atlantic Ocean, approximately 10 miles wide, separating Block Island from the coast of Rhode Island. It’s also the setting and title of the new film by Kevin and Matthew McManus.

Something odd is happening to the wildlife on and around Block Island. Birds are falling from the sky. The beaches are covered in dead fish. Harry Lynch (Chris Sheffield, The Last Ship, The Maze Runner) is noticing changes in his father (Neville Archambault. 13 Cameras, 14 Cameras) who is having blackouts and sleepwalking.

The Block Island Sound Boat

Harry’s estranged sister Audry (Michaela McManus, Into the Grizzly Maze, The Village), a marine biologist, is sent to investigate the fish die-offs. Things take a tragic turn when their father vanishes off of his boat. When Harry begins to have hallucinations and blackouts it becomes a race against time to find out what’s in the water.

The Block Island Sound starts off with Henry talking to his conspiracy theory spouting buddy Dale (Jim Cummings, The Last Stop in Yuma County). By the end, Audry is talking to a guy named Kurt (Jeremy Holm, The Ranger) who believes aliens are possessing local residents. In between is a lot of boredom.

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The film’s basic premise is certainly an interesting one, albeit one that’s been used several times before. But instead of working up the plot and building suspense, The Block Island Sound turns into a bad domestic drama. His father isn’t even in the grave and Harry begins drinking way too much and acting oddly. Harry hallucinates seeing his dead father. He blacks out and wakes up at sea on the boat. This happens repeatedly but given how much he’s drinking it doesn’t seem odd. And it isn’t very scary. The only thing that really seems odd is the weird sound he sometimes hears from radios, CD players, etc..

We know there’s a connection to whatever he saw in the water, but the script ignores that to focus on his past issues. Audry tells her co-worker Paul (Ryan O’Flanagan) she’s stayed away since her mother’s death in part because of Harry and his temper. Instead of a thriller, we get a drama about an unsympathetic jerk falling apart after the death of his father. And because he is so unsympathetic and downright unlikable, it makes watching this unpleasant. But not in the way a horror film should be.

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By the time it finally picks up its pace I was past caring. The flurry of action in the last few minutes felt tacked on rather than an organic part of the plot. And any effect they might have had was ruined by an incredibly heavy-handed voice-over repeating some dialogue from earlier in the film. I had high hopes for The Block Island Sound. Unfortunately, it turned out to be a prime example of how an attempt at elevated horror can go very wrong.

Another of the world premieres at this year’s Fantasia, The Block Island Sound will have a second showing on September 1st. You can check the film’s Facebook page for other festival dates.

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