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Newport Beach Film Festival 23' "The Man in The White Van" - movie review

Updated: Oct 15, 2023

In today's world, strikes and indictments dominate the headlines. In the realm of cinema, especially in the horror genre, it seems to be the year of the serial killer. This trend is not surprising when you consider the challenges filmmakers faced over the past couple of years due to pandemic-related obstacles. The return to home invasions and survival thrillers have been prevalent in horror for good reason. Serial killer stories are the quintessential pandemic-style films, featuring solitary murderers with just one or two victims at a time, often with a thin plot. Given the circumstances we all lived through during that time, it's no wonder serial killer tales have made a comeback.

Warren Skeels steps into the genre with "The Man in the White Van." While the story is somewhat familiar, akin to the Zodiac killers, the uncertainty surrounding the assailant has always added a layer of tension to their narratives. "The Man in the White Van" introduces us to a young woman who initially seems to exaggerate her stories. However, when she becomes the target of a mysterious white van, it evolves into a chilling cat-and-mouse game that's a true standout on screen.

The film centers around a young woman, portrayed by the enigmatic Madison Wolfe, named Annie. She's your typical 1970s Florida teenager, a tomboy who loves southern rock and horses. Despite living in the shadow of her older sister, she's managed to carve out a decent life for herself. That is until the appearance of a mysterious white van and a sinister figure sends her anxiety and tension skyrocketing. We witness Annie's struggle for survival, not only against the unknown stalker but also to find her voice within her own household. The remarkable ensemble cast, featuring childhood favorites like Sean Astin and Ali Larter, adds depth and authenticity to the film. "The Man in the White Van" is not just about the killer; it's a genuine glimpse into the American family dynamic of the mid to late 1970s. During this era, the pressures of "keeping up with the Joneses" began to take a toll, affecting the work-life balance. Children from that generation often found themselves left to their own devices, contributing to the rise of serial killers during this period.

One of the standout features of "The Man in the White Van" is its cinematography. Gareth Paul Cox's work is truly brilliant. The genius lies in how he weaves a story of innocence with terror, enabling the audience to engage with the killer and Annie simultaneously. Each moment keeps you riveted to the screen, and the ability to transform something as simple as a white van into a terrifying presence akin to Cujo showcases true craftsmanship.

"The Man in the White Van" may hit audiences harder than expected. The story feels all too real, and the thrill of the chase is palpable from the very beginning. This film doesn't romanticize or glorify serial killers but rather brings out the true horror of their actions. It should become a favorite among true crime enthusiasts, a group that seems to have grown in today's society.

Rating: 4.5/5


Directed by: Warren Skeels

Starring: Madison Wolfe, Brec Bassinger, Skai Jackson, Ali Larter, and Sean Astin

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