Written and directed by Sam Max, an unnamed figure picks up a young man in his car. As the two drive together, and settle into an austere rental house in the country, the details of their arrangement become cuttingly clear. Starring: Russell Kahn and Zachary Quinto.
You may not know what’s going on with Chaperone at first but you do know one thing and it’s that it is undeniably creepy and it’s a delight to watch. There’s a superb confidence at work here, it doesn’t have to reveal itself, it can hold onto an enticingly vague note and still work excellently. Whether or not it will scratch the itch of all its viewers is debatable, but those who can bask in its ominous and mysterious atmosphere will highly enjoy it. However, while it may not be overt, it is easy to tell that there’s something deeper at play here with plenty of red flags. When it does finally unravel, it’s a surprisingly affecting and chilling moment. On top of which the creation of Zachary Quinto’s titular Chaperone is a character whose psychology could cause a fascinating debate.
Quinto has always been beautifully suited to dark roles and it’s a joy to see him let that side out to play. Whereas other roles have embraced it more menacingly, here it’s a darkness blended with tender empathy. It’s an unusual combination but he achieves it so easily and unquestionably convincingly. It’s an even more interesting performance when paired with the intense vulnerability, shyness and melancholy of Russell Kahn’s character. He brings a strongly youthful feel, showing the audience that he’s giving himself to something, you just have to wait to find out what.
The direction from Sam Max has a lot of horror notes which enrich the atmosphere, embracing the mysterious possibilities to its story. Especially choosing such a nicely remote location in a wooded area which brings all sorts of sinister opportunities to the table. Max then doesn’t need to actually take up those opportunities to still make the most of those advantages. It doesn’t lean into being graphic or violent, it holds back and lets the impact of the events hit you quietly. It has a sharp aesthetic, it brings a precise feel which fits to the methodical nature of Quinto’s character.
Chaperone is perfectly creepy, a touch disturbing and unexpectedly affecting. It plays its cards close to the chest to allow the atmosphere to create a strong mystery and intriguingly dark tone. Zachary Quinto plays to his strengths to bring an impressive complexity within such a short amount of time, while Russell Kahn’s performance is full of vulnerability and sympathy. There are a number of familiar notes but they’re used in service of a very original story which leaves you with some interesting questions.