Film Noir is a type of film that is often recognized by stark light/dark contrasts, skewed visual angles, a dark foreboding mood, disorienting compositions, a voiceover narration and primarily for black and white photography. There have been countless film noir to come out of Hollywood, especially from the 1940s and 1950s. The Maltese Falcon, Double Indemnity, The Night of the Hunter and Kiss of Death are just a smattering of examples of the film noir genre. Some Modern Noir, or Neo Noir as it’s called, examples include The Big Lebowski, U-Turn, Payback, The Usual Suspects, Blade Runner, Chinatown and now Adam Gierasch’s Schism.
Dylan White lives a pretty normal, uneventful life. He works as a chef, doesn’t go out much and has a loving girlfriend. He has his routine and is quite content with his life in the Big Easy. Dylan begins to have haunting nightmares that start to interrupt his waking life. Often times when he awakes from a vision he finds himself in a different place. Believing that this may all be tied to an amnesia-inducing head injury he suffered Dylan sets out to follow the clues to hopefully unravel the mystery of who he really is and the closer he gets the more danger he finds himself in.
Utilizing the conventions of the cinematic style it’s very easy to be dismissive towards a film that appears to be gimmicky. However, Gierasch’s film is a genuine neo noir. The only thing it lacks is it wasn’t shot in black and white and it doesn’t have Dylan doing an off-screen narration. With that it would have been an actual film noir. Gierasch truly captures the look and feel of a classic film noir. This is instantly recognizable by his use of shadows and camera angles not to mention the ever-present foreboding mood of the story. Shot on 35mm and with the 2.35 aspect ratio, Giearasch’s compositions are large and in your face. Amnesia is one of the staples of film noir and that features prominently in Gierasch’s film. Not only is the character driven to find out who he is but the viewer is as well.
Callum Blue gives a great performance as Dylan. He does a fine job of portraying the frustration and fear he’s going through as he tries to make sense of what’s happening. With each successive clue you recognize a change in him and slowly we begin to see who he truly is and what he’s capable of. Vinnie Jones appears as Quincy, a mysterious, sadistic crime boss who may harbor some clues as to who Dylan really is. He is quite effective in the part; menacing and cruel. Ashlynn Yennie stars as Brandy, Dylan’s girlfriend. Different from roles she’s known for, The Human Centipede films, she successfully portrays the concern and love she has for Dylan and how much she wants to help him. Nicole LaLiberte also stars as Marlena, a woman Dylan encounters at a bar. The performances are uniformly good and far better than one could expect from the genre.
Written by Jace Anderson and Gierasch, the writing team behind films such as Night of the Demons and The Toolbox Murders, this not only proves to be a solid neo noir but also an engaging mystery/thriller. It hooks into you from the start and doesn’t let go until the final frame. Featuring some witty dialogue, it’s well thought out and despite the storyline it’s not difficult to keep up with. There are turns that are unexpected but very welcome that remind one of other films. However, even mentioning those films would rob the viewer of the experience.
Schism is an engaging film that addresses numerous themes such as redemption, responsibility, consequence and salvation. It even addresses faith but not in a heavy-handed way. If the opportunity presents itself this is one to see on the big screen. Fine acting and directing, some gruesome make up effects, compelling story, visual style and naked Yennie certainly makes this a standout for the genre.