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The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

CineHawk Review: “The Giant”

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ILLUSTRATION: CASEY WOOD ’23/THE HAWK

Written and directed by David Raboy, “The Giant” tells the story of a young woman whose long lost lover returns in the middle of a gruesome murder spree. It is currently available to rent or to own on Verizon Fios. The film stars Odessa Young, Ben Schnetzer, Jack Kilmer, Madelyn Cline, Danny Ramirez and P.J. Marshall.

I would normally proceed to a plot description, but that would require me to even have a faint understanding of the film. Raboy succeeded in creating one of the most confusing films ever approved for theatrical release. This is especially disappointing as he is inarguably a talented director. To give the film some credit upfront, it is at least well cast. Young’s Charlotte is charismatic and vulnerable, deserving of a much better script to shine in. Playing her long lost lover Joe is Schnetzer, who is mysterious and intense, as well as possessing suitable chemistry with Young. The rest of the cast give vibrant, organic performances, an impressive feat considering the script they had to work with.

 “The Giant” has one other strength: an enthralling visual landscape. I did not even have to finish the film’s trailer to decide to watch it, as the cinematography alone immediately convinced me that I would be in for an elevated cinematic experience. Cinematographer Eric K. Yue eschews modern cinematic lenses in favor of a vintage 35 mm aesthetic. This unique look matches the film’s ambiguous time period, and is an amazing throwback to suspense thrillers of the 70s, which “The Giant” is clearly trying to evoke. The visual style of the film also exudes an ethereal, dreamlike quality, complemented by a realistic color palette, reflecting the deteriorating mental state of the main character. 

The opening scene is fantastic. After the production company logos, the film fades from black to reveal the haunting image of Charlotte’s mother staring down at her young daughter. This scene is followed by a John Carpenter-style montage of quiet, atmospheric shots that put the viewer on edge, culminating in an unexpected and visually disturbing death that sets the tone for the rest of the film. 

Unfortunately, this amazing opening is this film’s high point, and whatever goodwill Raboy may have earned with his inspired direction is squandered in a confusing and dull mess of a plot. The opening is revealed to be a dream that Charlotte is waking up from, and she soon meets up with her friends, who are partying at a lake. This scene is also strong, planting the seeds of an unseen malevolent force that is out to get the main characters, and establishing their relationships. However, as soon we are introduced to Joe, the film takes a far too abstract, nonlinear direction. 

Time jumps around constantly in “The Giant,” without any captions or indicators to clue in a viewer when or even what exactly is occurring on screen. Is a certain scene set in the present story? A flashback to previous events? A dream or hallucination by our protagonist? Who knows. 

This kind of ambiguous, unconventional storytelling can work, so long as there is an underlying meaning that one can ultimately glean from this style of telling. “The Giant” does not have this luxury, and not even a third of the way through the movie, I was hopelessly lost. Events just seemed to happen or blend together, with no discernible rhyme or reason. While at first an interesting stylistic choice, the anachronistic time period eventually just became another plot hole, with a brief image indicating a 70s setting, but the characters then using 90s style cell phones.

Speaking as someone who is a fan of slow-burning horror and the “hide your monster” trope that was popularized by the likes of “Jaws” and “Alien,” this film is far too conservative in the depiction of its titular monster, which has less than two minutes of screentime in a 99 minute movie. What we do see does not stand out from so many other monsters, which causes me to suspect that added screen time would have done very little to actually improve the film’s quality. At the tail end of its final act, “The Giant” attempts to throw the audience a final curve ball at the reveal of the killer’s identity, only for it to fall completely flat to the film’s abysmal pacing and the utterly farcical final shot that will leave anyone who made it to the end of this trainwreck begging the heavens for the last 99 minutes of their life back.

Overall, “The Giant” is an unbearably disappointing and baffling experience. All the more tragic is that its subpar script was brought to life by genuine talent behind and in front of the camera. The aesthetic of what could have been a modern classic wasted on what sadly turned out to be a bloated mess.

 

Rating: 2/10 Hawks

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