New On Demand from XYZ Films!

PRESENCE (2022)

Directed by Christian Schultz, Thomas Johnston.
Written by Peter Ambrosio, Christian Schultz.
Starring Jenna Lyng Adams, Donny Broussard, Dave Davis, Alexandria DeBerry, Major Dodge, Thomas Johnston, Isaiah LaBorde, Octavio Pisano, Teri Wyble
Find out more about this film here!!

Jennifer (Jenna Lyng Adams) is a fashion designer specializing in detailed zippers living in New York with her ex-boyfriend. It’s been weeks since she has heard from her best friend Samantha (Alexandria DeBerry) and Jennifer longs to find out where she is. Jennifer is mentally unstable and on the brink of a nervous breakdown, but is relieved when Samantha finally calls her and invites her to a luxurious yacht to take part in a lucrative business deal with a wealthy clothing manufacturer named David (Dave Davis). Once on the yacht and out to sea, Jennifer begins to have mental issues once again, complaining that there is some kind of dark presence inside of her and then the knives on the boat start going missing.

PRESENCE is a slow descent into madness by inches. It’s takes its sweet time introducing us to Jennifer, Samantha, and David, who all end up trapped together on a yacht in the middle of the ocean. While directors Christian Schultz and Thomas Johnston make the scenery look gorgeous and the setting look extravagant, it doesn’t help the pacing of this very slow movie.

The fault is not on the actors. Jenna Lyng Adams has a strong presence on screen. She goes through some complex emotions in this film and conveys them skillfully. Alexandria DeBerry and David Davis are also great here. DeBerry recognizing this self-destructive behavior Jennifer is going through, yet still trying to be supportive as her best friend. Davis plays an arrogant businessman but shows an understanding for Jennifer’s plight that makes him more than just a rich guy cliché. All three actors involved in this dark play do a great job with the story they have.

The problem is that there really isn’t anything new to see in PRESENCE. Jennifer receives a strange necklace at the beginning that has something to do with her blackouts and it’s pretty obvious what’s going on from very early on with Jennifer never remembering huge chunks of time and people and cutlery going missing in the interim. It’s only the cast that doesn’t have a clue, but we are made privy with some ominous scenes of a shadow in the background just before Jennifer has one of her episodes. That gives the directors the ominous task of filling in where the story is lagging with long silences of people wandering around the boat, staring out into the ocean, lounging on the deck, and dancing around to music from the soundtrack. It makes the story feel like its being padded and the wait for something to actually happen during the climax to be excruciating.

The relationship between Jennifer and Samantha is also too vaguely communicated. At first, it seems Jennifer is more than just friends with Samantha. It seems like she is in love with her best friend. But once we catch up with Samantha, it appears they are just friends, though there still is some tension whenever Samantha and David are being intimate. While there’s not an issue with the ambiguity of Jennifer and Samatha’s relationship, the film fails to come to any kind of satisfying conclusion to the situation. Since this seems to be a strong issue with Jennifer’s unstable mindset, I think more attention should have been given to this plot point.

The ending is suspenseful if not somewhat confounding. An awful lot had to happen in order for this sequence of events to unfold and while they aren’t outside the realm of possibility, it still feels like some stretching was done in order to make it all make sense. The ambiguous and artsy way things are wrapped up doesn’t help. In the end, I recommend PRESENCE for its strong performances, but the story feels like it would have made for a much better short film than the padded feature we got. The directors and cast are able to convey a strong sense of dread and once the pace amps up in the last half hour, PRESENCE works. Just be ready for a long wait to get there for this one.

Check out the trailer here!!