Sam Was Here (2016) Review

Spoiler-free so you can read before you watch

Sam Was Here (2016) Review

Horrorific content by adrian on May 24th, 2020 | Movie Review | Slow Burn, Psychological, Desolate, Isolation

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It's about a down and out traveling salesman stuck working a rural desert community that's essentially void of all life.

Sam Was Here was directed by Christophe Deroo and stars Rusty Joiner (from Dragonfyre), Sigrid La Chapelle and Rhoda Pell.

Sam Was here is a Shudder exclusive that's been floating around for awhile now. I think it took me so long to get around to watching it because the movie poster didn't grab me, the runtime is really short and it got a lot of negative reviews for being slow and vague. But, last night I happened to be short on time so this quick flick fit right in.

This movie fits into the "where is everybody??!" genre, a term coined in reference to the very first ever Twilight Zone episode of the same name. Don't Blink is another modern movie that falls under this genre. Basically, there's signs of life everywhere but no actual people anywhere.

Sam is a door-to-door salesman from LA whose boss had him drive out into the middle of nowhere to peddle his wares to a rural desert community. Problem is, nobody's home. Every house is empty. The local diner is abandoned. The motel left a door open, but nobody's at the front desk. The movie is built upon a feeling of isolation. Sam's completely isolated in the middle of the desert and in the middle of a dusty town.

But, the cool thing is he's not actually completely alone. There's someone who knows he's there and apparently has an ax to grind with him because he keeps getting threatening messages on his beeper (yep, this movie takes place back when beepers were a thing!) and even painted on his car. Even though he can't see or hear anyone. There's also a running sub plot of a serial killer on the loose, which you learn about through a local talk show radio host which apparently everyone in the town was listening to before they disappeared.

So it's a slow burn horror in that it takes time for him to realize nobody's around. But I wouldn't personally consider any movie with a runtime of just over an hour a slow anything. And it's vague because the story doesn't actually tell you directly what's happening, it's somewhat up to your own interpretation, which makes it more Lovecraftian than vague. It's also a visually beautiful film. The desertscape is stunning and is captured in an artistic way. For example, Sam's in the middle of nowhere walking through large plots of land where dilapidated trailers and mobile homes are parked. And scattered around them are rusted out cars, scraps and trash. Basically junk yards. An interesting detail because half the time you're watching Sam explore the area through broken car windows and other crap, almost as if you're one of the locals hiding from him.

It's a simple movie with mostly only one cast member. But, when the first local does show up it's a seriously WTF situation. The movie goes from slow and mysterious to crazy and violent with no warning. And the ending may be up for interpretation, but I thought it worked well, it ends as mysteriously as it starts.

I personally really liked this one. Maybe it's because I went into it with low expectations, who knows. But overall it was a pleasant surprise.

Worth Watching?

I think so. It's short and sweet, almost feels more like a long episode of Twilight Zone or Black Mirror than a movie. Just keep in mind that it's not a traditional horror movie and it does start slow.

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