Spoiler warning: this is our deeper analysis. Turn back if you haven’t finished the film.
Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead create fantastic entanglements of extra-dimensional horror and existential dread. I have said before that I think they are two of the greatest creators we have, and I still do feel that way. However, I have always been a little let down by the final moments of several of their films (well, about half).
Here, we end up with a bit of a cliffhanger where Steve might be trapped in the past. However, given the contact he makes with Dennis it seems likely he will be pulled through. The tragedy and danger of the narrative is somewhat undermined here. This may have worked better as a tragedy.
My larger complaint with this film involves one segment where Steve takes his dog with him to the past. As soon as the dog appeared in the film, I knew something bad would happen to it. The problem here is that this is the first time they’ve been predictable. The cheap emotional toll of watching an animal in danger is beneath the quality of the writing of the film.
Further, there are ways that the dog could have been endangered without making Steve suddenly make a stupid and reckless decision. As said though, this is the first time I think any of these films has been cheap, which on the one hand speaks to their abilities, but it also made this first time sting a bit more.
You might think I am harping on them for one narrative decision. I am. I expect near perfection from these guys as they are near-perfect writers and directors. In a way, they are the student who always gets full marks and then ends up making a silly error on a major assignment. It hurts more to see the error here.
I don’t think Benson or Moorhead will see this review, but I do want to mention again that this mistake would be overlooked from other less talented creators. I hold these two to a ridiculously high standard, but they clear this standard 95% of the time. Synchronic just doesn’t fully stick the landing.
The broader implications of the narrative are more subdued here. The terror comes more from reflection, but with Steve perhaps making it out at the end we aren’t sure where the focus needs to be. While I understand the drive to make the film end happily, it doesn’t fit the tone as well. It might have made more sense to show Steve being the one who leaves the message for them in the past.
I liked this movie a lot. I may even love many aspects of it, but it doesn’t fully sing for me. It is certainly worth a watch and will still leave most other narratives in the genre in the dust. For me, Benson and Moorhead seem to release a masterpiece followed by a strong but flawed work and then back to another masterpiece. Here we have the strong but flawed. Let’s hope that they continue this trend and release their next masterpiece soon.