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SAM WAS HERE (2016)
aka NEMESIS, KILL/OFF
Directed by Christophe Deroo
Written by Christophe Deroo, Clement Tuffreau
Starring Rusty Joiner, Sigrid La Chapelle, Rhoda Pell, Hassan Galedary
A simple business trip leads to a country road filled with psychopaths, a weird radio station, and a red light in the sky in the TWILIGHT ZONE-esque waking nightmare that is SAM WAS HERE.
A businessman named Sam (Rusty Joiner) is sent on a road trip by his boss to sell…something door to door. His intention is to finish early so he can get back home to LA so he can celebrate his daughter’s birthday, but the road in front of him is seemingly endless and no one is answering their doors when he knocks on them. On top of that, there is a red light in the sky and after hearing about the murder of a little girl on the radio, he is pursued by masked madmen wearing masks, brandishing weapons, and under the assumption that Sam is the murderer. What ensues is a cat and mouse game with Sam getting his ass kicked and then kicking some ass in order to survive the ordeal. With no answers to any of his phone calls, Sam attempts to track down the radio station in order to find some semblance of sanity and possibly a way home.
Those of you who like their films wrapped up in a little package with everything explained in the end and not much to think about past the credits might want to move along when you run across SAM WAS HERE. This isn’t that type of movie. This is a surreal jaunt through hell with very little knowledge of the protagonist before he shows up on the dirt road to nowhere and even littler knowledge of the hows and whys he has ended up on this horrifying gauntlet he finds himself caught in.
People who want to understand everything are going to find themselves cursing at the screen with this one, but I couldn’t help but be wrapped up in the whole thing due to some fantastic direction from Christophe Deroo. While I had an assumption as to how this film was going to end, I continued to be entertained by the nightmarish descent Sam is trapped in filled with bizarre sights with little explanation like a David Lynch joint and sounds reminiscent of classic John Carpenter flicks. As Sam’s fight for survival ensues, the violence and the twisted imagery continues to intensify until Sam finds himself in a world alien to our own. I loved every level this film descended into as the camera is Sam’s constant companion through the entire film.
I have a ton of questions of my own as I feel there is a lot of symbology, underlying themes, and metaphoric dissection to be had with SAM WAS HERE. I can’t wait to try to crack this film’s eggshell with a rewatch, hopefully with someone else who might be able to share some insight on it. But just because I don’t get it all and just because it’s not all explained to me doesn’t mean I don’t know whether it’s good or not. SAM WAS HERE succeeds in creating a character worth investing in (Joiner is a pretty strong actor despite the ambiguity of his purpose). It sets him in a situation that is twisted, dire, and nightmarish and fills an hour and fifteen minutes with nightmare fuel men in masks, odd sounds over the radio and telephone, and an ending that will leave you wanting to talk about what just transpired. The experience of SAM WAS HERE can be described as simple and vague, but it also seems to have a purpose. I invite you to check this twisted fever dream a chance and maybe, between all of us, we can maybe figure it out.
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