Reviews | Written by Rich Cross 21/10/2021

WE NEED TO DO SOMETHING

"It's not the end of the goddam world," insists a frustrated and short-tempered Dad as his family - hunkered down in the basement of their house, as a tornado rages outside - begin to panic. But as the plot of We Need to do Something unfolds, it becomes less and less clear what exactly is happening in the world beyond the four walls of this temporary domestic sanctuary.

When the storm passes, the family find themselves still trapped by debris blocking their exit. As they try to make their escape, most of this micro-budget indie thriller takes place within this cramped and confined setting. In fact, the only exterior scenes come in the form of flashbacks. These show the blossoming relationship between sparky, wayward teen Melissa and her new partner, the part-Goth, part-Wicca Amy.

Melissa’s fledgling love interest provides her with a welcome distraction from the miserable state of her dysfunctional family. The marriage between father Robert and mother Diane is falling apart in a welter of recriminations. Robert clashes with his petulant and determined daughter over every issue imaginable. Even her younger brother Bobby is affected by the family's disintegration. The stress of being trapped exacerbates these long-standing familial tensions. And that’s before bizarre and inexplicable developments make the family doubt if their predicament is happening in a reality that they recognise.

Directors working with minimal funds can make a virtue out of a single-set shoot. Sean King O'Grady tries to extract the maximum atmosphere from the locked-down premise of Max Booth III’s script (adapted for the screen from his own novella). Cinematographer Jean-Philippe Bernier frames the characters' plight through some decent enough camera work. But even as a series of unfortunate events befall the family, it's difficult to make what is essentially an oversized bathroom feel particularly threatening.

With little else to work with, the movie relies heavily on the performances of its small cast. Pat Healy puts in a convincing turn as the tightly-wound and increasingly volatile patriarch Robert; Vinessa Shaw allows the hidden strengths of put-upon wife Diane to gradually come to the surface as the situation darkens. Best of all is Sierra McCormick’s portrayal of the conflicted Melissa, an adolescent whose emotional fragility lies just beneath the surface of her brash and confident demeanour.

Although it will be too small and oblique a film for many, what really undermines the impact that We Need to do Something could have is that its plot ultimately makes no sense. This means that the tension built up in the first hour of the film evaporates in a ridiculous final act. It’s an endpoint that explains nothing and which makes every weird and unsettling thing that happens in the run-up feel arbitrary and inconsequential.

WE NEED TO DO SOMETHING is on digital download from October 25th