Companion is part horror movie, part post-apocalyptic road movie and one of the bleakest things I’ve seen this year. Writer/director John Darbonne (The Cottages, Ice Scream: The ReMix) has crafted a future where a new kind of horror stalks what’s left of mankind, but humans are still their own worst enemy.
A bloody man with a machete approaches an old Jaguar Vanden Plas sitting in a field, he sees a bloody hand and screams. After the credits, we see the same man who we learn is Gus (Marcus Anthony). He and his wife Ella (Anna Flynn) are trying to reach a settlement called Bodega, but at the moment they’re scavenging food from an abandoned house. He accidentally cuts his hand open which attracts a companion, a creature somewhere between a ghost and a zombie.
Even worse, The Preacher (Eric Hanson, The Night Before) and his followers have their eyes on the house. Abner (Russell Shealy) turns up in time to drive them off, but Gus is injured, fatally it seems. Abner and Ella leave looking for Bodega, but what awaits them is even worse, and what’s behind them won’t stay there. Companion follows these two across a landscape full of threats, both human and supernatural. But even as they deal with these threats they also have to deal with their own demons. Abner is haunted by the death of his young son Joshua, Ella by the feeling that she abandoned Gus.
Parallel to their story we also have Gus’s story. It seems he didn’t die and is now travelling with The Preacher for his own reasons. And the ironically named Merritt (Stephen Brodie, Baphomet, The Rake) is going to make sure everyone meets up at the end.
The result is a film that mixes elements of action films, horror movies and dramas, sometimes all at once. Darbonne’s script walks a fine line at times, trying not to let one of the film’s elements drown out the others, and it mostly succeeds. The human-on-human violence is well done and frequently looks painful rather than just bloody.
The creatures that give Companion its name have two forms, a ghostly, ethereal one and a physical one that can interact with, and even kill, humans. The effects for the ghostly version are creepy and thankfully not overused. The makeup for their zombie-like form is simplistic and works best in scenes where they keep moving.
The hows and whys of these creatures are never explained. What exactly are they? Did they cause the apocalypse, or are they a product of it? Why do they appear in different forms at different times? But the characters don’t know either, and the confusion is put to good use as we learn along with Companion’s characters just what the creatures can do.
For obvious reasons, I can’t really talk about the film’s ending. But the last ten or so minutes of Companion will be divisive among those who see it. Personally, I’m OK with how it ends. I just wish those last minutes had taken a different route to get there. One that feels a bit more believable. Others will find it a bit of a stretch. But if you catch everything that Merritt says about what happened at Bodega it does make sense. Still others will say it reeks of “I took one too many philosophy courses in college.” and I can’t really say they’re wrong.
Those last few minutes aside though, Companion is a remarkably solid film that’s worth a watch. Level 33 Entertainment is planning to release Companion later this year. You can check either the film or Level 33’s Facebook page for more details.