The Tent (2020)

Director: Kyle Couch

Running Time: 85 Minutes

Starring: Tim Kaiser, Lulu Dahl, Shelby Bradley, Christine Marie, Jeannine Thompson, Michael Haase, Jeff Kaiser

My review of The Tent was first published at Bloody Good Screen.

It’s often that a films title can give you all the information you need (e.g. Hobo With A Shotgun), but just as true is how a title can leave you unsure of what to expect. Take this film, you’re certain a tent will be prominently seen. Outside of that? It’s a mystery, left to be revealed as the feature unfolds.

An apocalyptic event, known as The Crisis, has devastated David’s world. To survive, he’s left to rely on the skills he learnt as a child. That soon changes when he encounters Mary, another survivor who questions David’s tactics.

From early on, writer and director Kyle Couch seems to have crafted a post-apocalyptic story most interested in its characters. Tim Kaiser and Lulu Dahl do able work conveying their characters, as the story centres on David’s want to be alone, and how Mary argues against it. As we see them trying to survive in this wilderness, it feels as though their relationship was made up only of conflict. So, when the time comes for them to eventually grow, to form a more willing partnership, it doesn’t resonate as intended. For what it’s worth, the emotional beats ring truer by the films end.

Terrorising our leads are unseen creatures, who are said to feed off stress. Their terror is showcased through minimalistic means, as their presence is heard through their growls, and moments are taken to see the world through their eyes. We keep checking in with them, as a reminder they’re lurking in wait, but it doesn’t have the desired effect. It tries serving as a terrifying reminder, that these unseen beings will eventually get their pound of flesh, but it just highlights how much of a non-presence they are.

In the midst of this, the timeline keeps skipping around through the 85-minute runtime. So, while our leads are trying to survive in the wilderness, we intercut to David on the city streets, and interludes of a clean-shaven man giving survival tips on a home video. It all makes sense in the final act, when the film shows its hand, and the undetermined crisis makes itself known. There are good intentions from Kyle Couch here, and the cast members sell where the story goes. It’s just a shame how the film seems to drag up to that point, leaving one to wonder if this Tent was worth pitching.