Densmore is a thriller that manages to be decently entertaining for lacking a punchline or second act.
Densmore (2019) Review By Mark McPherson
Published on May 11, 2023
Rating 3 /5
The premise of Densmore resembles Twin Peaks but more for the build-up than anything else. The idea centers around the rural town of Densmore and how its 100+ residents immediately vanished without a trace. The road to finding out how this happened is more exciting than finding the actual answer. This short film focuses entirely on the mystery and how it grows more profound, even if it ultimately ends less satisfying, an ending that will most likely peeve those who couldn’t dig No Country For Old Men.
Three characters investigate this matter. The first is a podcast host specializing in creepy stories of the unknown. Aiming to crack the case for his subscribers, the host ventures to Densmore with his recording equipment to stream his findings. After he goes missing, a federal agent is called in to find out what happened to this missing host when a live stream goes awry with a stranger in the background. And when that agent goes missing, a second agent is called in to investigate the two missing people. Unfortunately, he might get far, even with more advanced technology to track down whatever strange force makes people vanish into thin air.
The very idea of the film made me recall the first act of Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me. In that film, people end up missing while trying to investigate a murder, and a mysterious force captures people in the void known as the Black Room. Densmore is not entirely on the same level as it doesn’t have its characters' quirks or the discoveries' surrealness. It’s all about the anticipation for this film, and something is fascinating about this short film experiment. It’s interesting to see how long the mystery can continue to build before the inevitable reveal. Since that reveal is sure not to be as entertaining as the boiling of this missing-person plot, there’s a smart call not to reveal the twist until the final few seconds.
The technical aspects of such a short film are spot on. The acting of all involved, from the podcast host to the bureau officials, is solid and convincing, standing out far more than the clean office or familiar rural settings. The tone is beautifully established with great touches of ominous but not blinding-dark lighting for the creepy interiors and solid daylight depictions that still manage to be foreboding in the dry fields of Kansas. Combined with the office settings, every location is filmed well enough to take you out of the intrigue rarely. Even the live stream video used as evidence for the first post-incident disappearance is believably staged.
Densmore is a thriller that manages to be decently entertaining for lacking a punchline or second act. The best that can be said of such a picture is that it acts as a solid showreel for how this director can make you care about the meat of a film’s narrative. Any director can start with a good idea or have an ideal ending in mind but often falter when making you care about the middle part of building the suspense. Densmore has the vibe of watching that one section of a movie and perhaps being intrigued enough to see how it might play out in full.
Mark has been a professional film critic for over five years and a film lover all his life.