Office worker, Simon (Ebon Moss Bachrach – seen in season 1 of The Punisher on Netflix), wakes up in an alley, covered in blood and with a hole in the back of his head. In the aftermath, Simon starts to attract the attention of office crush Emily, but he can’t shake the feeling that something weird is afoot…
One of the most enjoyable things about this film is the degree to which it delights in the thoroughly terrifying. From its opening shots, the film makes it very clear that it will not be pulling punches on the gore. It also makes another point very clear…this ride will be disturbing…and a lot of fun.
We spend the opening scenes trying to piece together what exactly happened to self-proclaimed “office stiff” Simon as he wakes up in an alley, covered in blood with a hole in the back of his head. Despite the fact that he has sporting wounds that should have killed him, he seems very much alive…sort of. Ebon Moss-Bachrach brings a vulnerability and nervousness that endears us to Simon. Additionally, he begins to develop a quiet determination amid his confusion that gets us to root for him. Similarly, Lucy Walters brings the character of Emily to life with an irresistible girl next door charm.
Moss-Bachrach and Walters create a prototypical couple in the kind of underdog romantic story you will have seen before, but this re-purposed trope is given brand new life and legs by the otherworldly mayhem that unfolds around it. Despite Simon’s affable manner and his genuine confusion about the odd things that start to happen to and around him, we are slowly drawn to the suspicion that the beautiful office crush falling for the romantic underdog might not be the best thing.
An unsettling yet playful tone is established early on, in no small part to Ron Patane’s musical score. Patane also uses the score to in an inverted manner, setting an ominous mood in a scene where Simon scores a date with his office crush. He pulls double duty as the film’s editor, not only setting a steady pace that lingers enough to feed us the information we need but is tightly cut enough to keep the story moving apace. Additionally, Patane is able to pull off some great hard cut transitions in conjunction with the precision in Luke McCoubrey’s cinematography.
Peter McCoubrey’s script gently weaves between Emily and Simon’s burgeoning romance and the increasingly weird developments in Simon’s life as a looming threat slowly reveals itself. This journey is well balanced between snippets of evidence that a terrible event is fast-approaching and Simon getting love advice from some very unexpected places. The script is unafraid to be on the nose, using lines like “she’ll eat you alive” and “I don’t bite” both telegraphing the unfolding story and adding to the humour with the obviousness of the dialogue.
The script also uses its limited cast to great effect, each one encapsulating the moods and themes of the film and having Simon bounce between them, including his pseudo alpha male office buddy Mitch, played with aplomb by Carter Roy. He wastes no time bringing the laughs, while embodying Simon’s self-doubt, outlining Simon’s limitations and inability to win over someone as untouchable as Emily.
Great characterisation, well-judged self-awareness and mastery over the crafting of tone and atmosphere makes The Grey Matter a great watch and probably one of the few films that can genuinely keep you laughing and gripping the arms of your chair at the same time.
Listen to our podcast review below:
Studio: McCoubrey Films | Year: 2014 | Genre: Comedy/Horror | Duration: 18 Mins | Suitability: Mature