Looking Glass (2018)

After moving to the desert location of the motel they have just bought, a couple finds that the previous owner has already vacated the premises without waiting for them. That small event is only the first in a series of increasingly strange events that go on in and around the motel.

Written by Jerry Rapp and Matthew Wilder and directed by Tim Hunter, Looking Glass makes its odd premises that has been somewhat seen before interesting by making most of it revolve around how Nicolas Cage’ character of Ray reacts and his ensuing actions after each strange event. The film has a limited number of characters and happens mostly in the one location making it feel almost like a wacky and dark stage play. The writing here knows where it’s going and how it’s going to get there without giving much away along the way and without over explaining things, something many other films do far too much.

The casting here may seem odd with giving Nicolas Cage the lead and not making him go completely batshit like he did in the recent Mom and Dad, but his style works here and the viewer even gets a somewhat subdued Cage at times, something that is almost kind of a miracle of late. His performance and how he gets deep into his character (while retaining some Cage-ness of course) gives the film a central performance that sets the tone and grabs the viewer and doesn’t let them go. Surrounding Cage as Ray are Robin Tunney as his long-suffering wife Maggie and Marc Blucas as the local Sherriff Howard. Their performances balance and enhance Cage’s, giving something him something to be grounded by and bothered by. Tunney plays a grieving mother here (while Cage’s Ray is grieving differently) who is attempting to both survive and save her marriage as best she can through this move and her husband’s increasingly weird behavior. She gives a good performance that with more screen time could have been a shining one, one to outshine everyone else’s.

The film’s cinematography by director of photography Patrick Cady works with the environments for each scene. In some, the way the location and people are framed to make things look and feel cramped while in others he gives, without giving too much away, the images a feeling that something ominous is about to go down. The way he frames some of the more voyeuristic scenes will make some viewers uncomfortable, some feel almost dirty, and others almost titillated depending on what their preferences are. This work adds to the atmosphere almost as much as, or more than, the core does in other films.
The score here is synthwave for the most part, something that works overall but feels a bit out of place given the film’s tone and location. The music by Mark Adler and Kristin Gundred is well done but only somewhat well fitting for the film. The viewer should not be jarred from the film by the music but it feels out of place at times, particularly when the synthwave is at its most synthwavy.

Looking Glass is a surprisingly not unhinged Nicolas Cage film that works. The story has some decent mystery with a voyeuristic side that adds some tension. The performances are good with Cage almost subduing himself, Tunney giving a layered, tortured performance, and Blucas being an off mixture of reassuring and menacing all at once. . It’s all set in a limited setting and it works for the story.
The film is interesting to watch and has some good tension and mystery at times, something that is done through the writing, directing, acting, and the visuals.