Co-writer/director James Fox is back with a feature-length film after a decade hiatus. He teams up with first-time screenwriter Amy Kay DuBoff on Crypto Shadows. The thriller’s mostly a one-person show, with star Mikayla Iverson being the only person on screen, aside from some ominous silhouettes that creep up from time to time.
Cara (Iverson) lives in her grandpa’s cabin to hide out for a while. She’s off the grid due to an impending sexual harassment suit against her former boss. But trying to spare her parents, Cara lies to them and claims she’s burnt out. Since Cara is a coder, she still works on her algorithm from the cabin. Aside from her parents, her only contact with the outside world is fellow programmer Llamaz (William Benedict), whom she calls for anything.
Cara’s world is turned upside down when she receives a strange message from somebody offering her $2 million for the algorithm. After declining, believing it to be a scam, she soon discovers hidden messages in a blockchain. Tracing these messages as best she can, Cara concludes that they must be sent from extraterrestrials. But seeing as how her mind is already playing games on her due to the trauma she previously experienced, can Cara trust what she thinks she’s seeing? If not, why are people coming to the cabin’s door at all hours of the night?
“…discovers hidden messages in a blockchain…Cara concludes that they must be sent from extraterrestrials.”
Crypto Shadows does a fantastic job of playing around with reality and fantasy. DuBoff and Fox take their time to establish Cara’s world and how she works and interacts with people. Granted, this does mean that some scenes feel repetitive, but they are necessary to understand how what happens to Cara, including identity theft, affects her. As such, the pacing feels lopsided, as most of the thrills come in the later half. But those early scenes play a part in the lead’s development, so it is tricky to figure out how to remedy the situation.
Iverson is great as the only person on screen for 80 minutes. She’s sweet, determined, vulnerable, and scared. It is tricky to keep viewers’ attention for so long by oneself, but she manages to do so admirably. Though just a voice on the other end of the phone, Benedict sells his affection for Cara well.
Crypto Shadows is an engaging thriller with an excellent lead performance. While it does take a little while to get going, those early scenes are not just padding. So stick with it; the film gets wild and is worth the journey.
"…an engaging thriller with an excellent lead performance."