Put two scientists, one with a tragic past, in a deep-sea vehicle to study seismic activity for 60 days, put them through an earthquake or two and watch the tension unfold as they lose contact with the outside world. It should be a recipe for intensity, but sadly, Halcyon ends up a dud.
At first, the actors manage to drive the film. Their chemistry draws us in with an equal balance of close quarters frustration and odd couple entertainment. Mykel Shannon Jenkins’ Daniel documents everything on a camcorder (a personality trait that goes nowhere) while Robert (Courtney Gains who played Malachai in the original 1984 Children of the Corn) gets lost playing Tetris. Daniel misses his family. Robert dreams about his suicidal bipolar wife. An earthquake severely injures Daniel. Robert tries to clean up the mess until a second earthquake entirely destroys their communication system. And then what? Exactly.
Robert’s mentally ill wife (Pepper Binkley) continually haunts him, yet we never see a valid connection between them. Even Daniel only hints at it once in the entire film, and even that mention comes off superficially. By the time Robert starts making decisions based on his grief or PTSD or a psychotic break, we’re left shrugging in ambivalent confusion and hoping it will be over soon.
“…in a deep-sea vehicle to study seismic activity, put them through an earthquake, and watch the tension unfold…”
It should also be noted that anyone volunteering for such a mission would go through extensive psychological testing, meaning a character like Robert would probably never have been chosen for such a task in the first place.
The main problem is that there isn’t any more to the story than the first sentence of this review. Despite excellent performances from Gains and Jenkins, the plot fails to carry any sort of momentum whatsoever. You’re expecting Das Boot but instead get My Dinner with Andre without the charm.
Visually, first-time director McKenzie Haglund and experienced cinematographer David Patino do an excellent job depicting the claustrophobia of underwater living with angles perfectly capturing all the nuances of confined space. Unfortunately, the screenplay drowns in mediocrity. More than anything, it seems like a missed opportunity to take advantage of a good cast and interesting set.
In the end, we walk out of Halcyon annoyed that we watched it, and that’s a damned shame.
Halcyon (2017) Directed by McKenzie Haglund. Written by McKenzie Haglund, Jim Muckian, and Ashley Haglund. Starring Courtney Gains, Mykel Shannon Jenkins, and Pepper Binkley.
4 out of 10 stars