Synchronic follows best friends/paramedics Steve (Anthony Mackie) and Dennis (Jamie Dornan) as they become aware of a dangerous new drug that is producing weird and disturbing injuries across New Orleans. As Steve delves further into the drug, he discovers its reality and time-altering side effects, and the dangers therein.
The directing duo of Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead are favorites of ours, with After Midnight and The Endless among our most esteemed films of recent memory. Their ability to blend very real and relatable human character dramas into elements of scifi and horror is incomparable in the film medium. Despite being labeled horror, their films go beyond the genre into something entirely different, a seamless blend between horror and dramedy. And here we are treated to the directing duo's largest budget, with a household name in the lead role.
Synchronic definitely holds up to the directors' previous works, intertwining their dry humor, powerful character dynamics and dialogue, and brief yet impactful scifi/horror elements. The directors make good work of their upgrade in acting chops, proving they are ready for more prowess in the film industry. Their ability to take a larger budget and still retain their personality that has been refined over the years is impressive.
The directors are at their most comfortable within the confines of a tight, seamless shot, letting the actors and script feed off of each other. But this film breaks away from this, expanding the scope beyond what they have done before. Most of the time it succeeds, as they still work with a relatively small special effects budget compared to other scifi films, cleverly executing massive sets with balanced and subtle CG.
But as usual, their stories are really about the characters, and one dynamic they have explored more than any other is that of brotherly love. They often use this dynamic to discuss very real and relatable conflicts that we all deal with, as best friends/brothers discuss relationships and philosophical ideals in mortality and morality. It adds a depth to their stories that is rarely scene in scifi or horror.
The film does have a bit of an SNL skit feeling towards the end, that it just doesn't know how to close things out. There is a definitive conclusion, but there were some elements in the final act that require a significant amount of assumption and imagination to close the plot holes. I feel like I was paying pretty close attention, and things still weren't quite adding up with the rules that had been established earlier. It's a little predictable and awkward, which is very different from how I feel about the rest of the film.
The final act's struggles aren't enough to discourage me from suggesting this film to others. Fans of Benson and Moorhead will find more of the same here, and patrons that haven't run into their films before, they will find this as a good springboard into their unique filmmaking style. Like all of their films, you won't feel a strong horror presence, perhaps this one even less so, but it's still a film with some darkness to engage with and some substance to make it meaningful.
Horror Rating System
Horror Qualifier: 6/10
Horror Quality: 4/10 Film Quality: 8/10