Director Christian Schultz’s horror film Presence is his debut feature, and while I hate to give notes to those who are out there doing, there are a couple of things I took issue with. Presence is labouring under the belief that it’s smarter than it is. And its short runtime of eighty-two minutes doesn’t do it any favours.
There are hints of real possibility it that wraps up within the narrative but without the necessary character development, it loses its way like a ship in the middle of sea.
Jennifer (Jenna Lyng Adams) suffers from anxiety and panic attacks. But her business partner, Samantha (Alexandria DeBerry) comes to her with a new potential business venture with David (Dave Davis). David is a businessman who invites the pair to join him on his yacht for a week-long cruise to Puerto Rico to see his factories and sign contracts.
Unfortunately, there may be something else on the boat with them. Dreams and horrifying visions haunt Jennifer, and she may in fact carry a terrible darkness within her.
While the locations that are used are great, and it’s an attractive cast, there’s no sense of forward momentum in the story. In fact, there’s never any sense of movement from the yacht except for the occasional glimpse through a porthole.
What weights everything down is the fact that it doesn’t give time for the characters to truly develop. There’s an interesting angle that the movie hints at and reveals toward the end. It could have developed those hints as a really strong through line. It can give the film a hint of strange cults at work. Or of spooky Caribbean mysteries and vengeance.
Throughout the film, there are glimpses of influences from DePalma to Polanski. It’s obvious that the creative team making the film are genre and film fans. But it rushes its storytelling, and it doesn’t let the characters breathe and develop. Consequently, the film isn’t allowed to grow a sense of menace or horror.
Great locations and beautiful people aren’t enough to carry a film through. That’s especially true when you’re attempting to explore genre material, a little more backstory. The same thing goes with trying a shift in the narrative through line. And perhaps, a sense of motion not only for the yacht but for the story could have done a lot for this one.
There’s an interesting story here, I just don’t think there’s enough of it on the screen to make its presence memorable.