Paul Owens’ Landlocked might be one of the most intriguing films to come out of Nightstream 2021. It’s a film that blends genre and crosses the boundaries of fact and fiction. Its unique narrative style and the way it incorporates footage from the filmmaker’s life is fascinating in and of itself, but the moments it meditates on and the questions that it raises make it a fascinating watch.
After his father’s death, Mason (Mason Owens) revisits his childhood home in the days before it is supposed to be torn down. Much of the furniture and his father’s belongings have been removed, and the house is something of a skeletal memory of his childhood. As he is going through some of the few remaining boxes in the basement, he finds a trove of VHS tapes and the camcorder that his father had bought when Mason was an infant.
He hooks up an old TV and plays back some of the tapes, seeing old footage of himself, his brothers and their parents for the first time in years. As he sits in the light of these happy memories, he starts playing around with the camera and discovers that it has a strange power. If he turns it on and points it at a spot in the room, he can view other events from his family’s past through the lens. Things that were not recorded. The camera seems to be a window into his family’s past and memories.
Landlocked is an ambitious story that exists in the space between horror and science fiction, which is part of what makes it so unique. Yes, there is definitely a technological element at play with the use of the camera, but this can definitely be read as the story of a haunting as well. The family’s home has memories. Their past exists in this space as much as the present does, and the camcorder provides a that bridges the two. Mason is able to use it to look into the memories that continue to exist and replay themselves here. The ghosts of his childhood and his family’s past experiences, both good and bad, continue to live on within these walls.
Another aspect that makes the film so unique is the way Owens combines modern narrative footage with his own family’s home movies. Much of his family shows up in the current timeline, playing versions of themselves (Mason included), and all of the footage from the past was compiled from the family’s own memories. So it’s an interesting mix of narrative and repurposed documentary footage.
The story is minimal, but the mechanism behind it really opens it up and allows for some interesting analysis. As Mason begins watching more and more of these ghostly scenes play out, he records them, and begins lining the walls of the formerly empty house with tapes. Has his glimpse into his own past become an obsession? Is it healthy to look into the past that much instead of looking forward? What else lives on in these walls that may have been forgotten?
The film is an interesting watch and the way it embraces various elements makes it really unique. It’s a fascinating blend of reality and fiction, and the way it crosses genres makes it even more memorable.
Movie Score: 4/5