By Mark Saldana

Rating: 3.5 (Out of 4 Stars)

I began my vitual film festival a day early with a screener for this entry in the “Dark Matters” category. For the uninitiated, this particular category features films that fall under the horror and dark thriller genres. Blinders certainly fits this bill. This movie puts a modern spin on the stalker flick, follows a seemingly familiar path, but then goes for the throat with some fierce surprises. Just when I thought I had been down this metaphorical road previously, writer/director Tyler Savage and his co-writer Dash Hawkins pull the rug out from beneath my expectations. The result is tension-filled ride full of dread, shocks and some well-played awe.

Vincent Van Horn stars as Andy, a young man running away from a messy breakup with his girlfriend and hoping to start a new life in a new city and state. Though Andy has no friends or family where he has moved, he is hoping to find peace and happiness there. On the plus side, he meets a sweet, attractive and delightfully charming young lady named Sam (Christine Ko). Sam helps get Andy out of his funk and back on the dating scene. However, just when things are starting to feel great again, a fateful run-in with a psychotic ride share driver (Michael Lee Joplin) begins to derail his path to happiness.

I genuinely enjoyed this dark, twisted, and mind-blowing thriller. The work of Dash Hawkins and Tyler Savage has the powerful effect of smoke, mirrors, and misdirection that helps them go for the real shocks and surprises. Even the familiar elements that are common in this type of movie still have their riveting and engaging moments. The three main players in the film certainly benefit from some great character development and solid performances by the actors portraying them.

Vincent Van Horn does a great job with the Andy character, as he plays a very likable and sympathetic victim that should have the audiences full support. It is difficult not to feel bad for the poor guy who has the chance to be happier and satisfyed, but has fallen prey to a psycho who simply torments him for his own amusement. Christine Ko is quite lovable as Andy’s new girlfriend Sam. Though it initially seems like a throwaway role, Ko gets to show some incredible range as she begins to play a more prominent role in film’s story. As Roger, the insane stalker driver, Michael Lee Joplin seethes unhinged anger and is absolutely unnerving as he displays joy and excitement at his dirty deeds.

Blinders is defintely a solid thriller that is guaranteed to entertain audiences and have them talking about it after. For those still watching films from the Austin Film Festival, I highly recommend this wicked slice of stalker horror. For anyone else, I would keep on an eye out for it, as it is a great flick worth watching with other horror fans.

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