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Saturday, May 30, 2020

Review: Confessional

Director: Brad T. Gottfred
Screenplay: Jennifer Wolfe
Year: 2020

Seven students are invited to participate in a confessional, where they must express themselves about two schoolmates who recently died. Amelia and Zach both died under strange circumstances and it seems like these seven people have something to do with their deaths. It is in their hands to confess what they know about the deaths or face the consequences of not doing so.

“Confessional” is a new Shudder exclusive movie that marks the third full-length feature of director Brad T. Gottfred (“The Movie Hero”) and the first full-length feature of screenwriter Jennifer Wolfe. In this, they take a path that seems to be inspired on the popular Netflix series “13 Reasons Why” and George Orwell’s literary piece “1984”, where through a confessionary equipped with cameras and monitors, seven students confess all they know about the deaths of Amelia and Zach. However, the big question is: does “Confessional” meet the requirements to be a horror movie? To which my answer is no. 

Before expanding into why I consider it not to be a horror movie, I want to say that this doesn’t mean at all that I don’t consider it to be a good movie. “Confessional” more than a horror movie, can be considered a drama that uses suspense as an ally to keep the viewer interested in its plot and the way in which information is revealed slowly putting together the pieces of the puzzle feeds this suspense. Throughout the plot, some topics are brought up that at a social level are relevant and to a certain degree scary, but nothing scary really happens in the movie. 

The plot develops as we see a montage of the different videos that the seven students recorded, and slowly more and more details are revealed that tie the two deaths together and the reason for it. This means that during a great deal of the movie we only see someone talking to the cameras inside the particular confessionary, which makes the movie consist almost exclusively of dialogues. The effectiveness of these dialogues and the development of the characters, that goes hand in hand with the plot development and the events that are being discovered, puts plenty of weight on the cast composed of Lucas Adams (“Wolves at the Door”), Paris Berelc (“Tall Girl”), Annalisa Cochrane (“Apparition”), Jess Gabor (“Criminal Minds”), Vanessa Marano (“Dexter”), Marcus Scribner (“Black-ish”), and Jake Short (“Dexter”), that manages to carry this weight with grace for the most part, although it tumbles at some moments. 

Where “Confessional” excels is in its particular way of narrating the story and its ability to make all the characters look like suspects. Even when enough information has been revealed to formulate a hypothesis about any of them, the reason for their actions remains a mystery, and it becomes hard to predict. The way in which everything is revealed little by little and its particular narrative style makes every turn to be surprising while keeping the viewer interested in the role of every character in the life and death of Amelia and Zach. 

Full of suspense and an intriguing plot, “Confessional” offers a different style for narrating a story and makes interesting a concept that in essence should have been boring. However, it never crosses the line towards horror cinema, something that is expected from a Shudder exclusive. Still, it is worth watching, keeping in mind that this is a movie with plenty of dialogue and not much action, but its great script and style makes it very interesting.

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