Writer-director Joshua Sowden’s Extramundane is a low-key horror-thriller set in an apartment complex. Newly hired property manager Trevor (Brant Rotnem) is trying to become acquainted with the building and the apartment’s tenets. But during the pandemic, such a thing is easier said than done. It is not too long before he notices strange happenings and looks into the mysterious disappearance of the previous manager. With the help of tenets Bobby (Brock Jones) and Jasmine (Cherie Corinne Rice), and the creepy handyman Jerry (Craig Gellis), Trevor discovers the truth, which shocks him to his core.
The titular word means “outside or beyond the physical realm,” which only hints at the true depths of horror unfolding at the property. Sowden maintains an intense atmosphere where everything just feels off or wrong, even if viewers can’t really articulate why. As the film does have a number of exposition-heavy scenes, the directing and cinematography are what keep viewers glued to the screen. Sowden was also the director of photography, bathing everything in very muted colors, to the point where some scenes appear to be black-and-white. Of course, they’re not, but sparseness only enhances the oddity of what’s going on.
“…notices strange happenings and looks into the mysterious disappearance of the previous manager.”
On top of that, Extramundane gets a considerable boost from its incredible sound design. Cortney Heinis and Neisha Heinis add layer upon layer of unsettling torment through their work on the sound. The banging in the garage, which Bobby stays away from, is faint enough not to be distracting but loud enough to unnerve both the characters and the audience. It is stellar work that proves with some TLC and hard work, that one does not need a large studio budget to do properly do sound design.
Gellis is terrifying as the awkward Jerry. The way he just stares and answers in strangely noncommittal ways any question he is asked adds to the tightly wound suspense. Rotnem plays the put-upon everyman well, as he’s charming and likable from the jump. Jones is really fun as Bobby, bringing a certain energy that enlivens his sequences. Rice sells the horror and mystery well while ably fleshing out a role defined by her interactions with the other characters.
Sowden keeps Extramundane as suspenseful as he can for its entire 94-minute runtime. The ultimate reveal works quite thanks to clever plotting and interesting characters. The cinematography keeps things grimy, which is perfect for the story and setting at hand. The cast all breathe life into their respective roles while maintaining a level of frightening mystery that is unsettling. Then throw in the perfect sound design, and audiences get a perfectly eerie, entirely creepy mystery that is quite engaging.
"…perfectly eerie, entirely creepy..."