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Stream to Scream: “WHILE SHE WAS OUT”

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As many fright fans already know, FANGORIA offers a great selection of gruesome movies, old and new, for free at our Hulu channel. To give you a better idea of what’s available, FANGORIA is taking in-depth looks at some of the channel’s terrifying titles with Stream to Scream. Today: Susan Montford’s cat-and-mouse thriller WHILE SHE WAS OUT.In the art of making an effective cat-and-mouse thriller, the name of the game is suspense. Relatively speaking, the situations of these films often remain the same, and they can often times be elevated alone by a superb cast. But if a filmmaker is not culling the most suspense possible from their environment, the lapses in logic will be enough to sink the story alone. Yet if a filmmaker can ramp up the suspense, even the most predictable thriller can be an intense and worthwhile experience.

Make no mistake, WHILE SHE WAS OUT is definitely predictable: from the opening scene hinting at domestic abuse, there’s only so many avenues the film can take that don’t lead to an inevitable role reversal. The film itself reflects that overarching dynamic, with most scenes set up predictably from their opening seconds. Despite the familiarity that runs through the film, director Susan Montford is incredibly resourceful, using suburban locales and her excellent cast wisely to create an effective and occasionally creepy thriller.

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WHILE SHE WAS OUT offers a fairly standard narrative: a psychologically abused housewife finds herself on the run from a gang of sadistic thugs after being the only witness to their murder of a security guard. As she endures more and more torment from the gang, the housewife finds strength in her will to survive and, ultimately, protect the ones that she loves. But as she turns the tables on her pursuers, will she realize she has more in common with these barbaric miscreants than those back home?

While the film is almost absolutely not a horror film, WHILE SHE WAS OUT does have the intensity and the occasional nastiness of one, including a heavy dose of psychological horror for good measure. Montford, who also wrote the film, may follow the playbook for cat and mouse thrillers, but she also is sly in her presentation, using a patient approach to her cast and her set pieces to optimize the punctuating moments of brutality. She’s also aided by cinematographer Steve Gainer, who keeps the visuals crisp and clear even in the more darker scenes of the film. And with a producer like Guillermo del Toro in her corner, there’s a reason why there’s an almost storybook element to the film, with the karmic justice and the psychotic villains used more effectively than your average thriller.

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The film also works thanks to its committed and multifaceted cast, even if the dialogue itself is often weak or cliché. Kim Basinger absolutely owns the movie, playing with an inherent vulnerability in a way that makes her character more predatory than her attackers. Lukas Haas also dominates his scenes as the leader of the gang, adding an understated perversion and curiosity to all of his malevolent misdeeds in the film. And it’s always a pleasure to see NIGHTBREED star Craig Sheffer show up in WHILE SHE WAS OUT, even if he’s slightly overplaying the role of a brooding, abusive husband.

Overall, WHILE SHE WAS OUT is better than your run-of-the-mill thriller, and better yet, has some excellent tension to offset the forgettable dialogue scenes. Montford is an adept director, playing her story through the necessary beats, but offering great technical skill in lieu of subversion. Add in a genuinely strong cast, a lean runtime and dashes of grim brutality throughout, WHILE SHE WAS OUT makes for a satisfying recommendation among our many Hulu offerings.

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About the author
Ken W. Hanley
Ken W. Hanley is the Managing Web Editor for FANGORIA and STARLOG, as well as the former Web Editor for Diabolique Magazine and a contributing writer to YouWonCannes.com. He’s a graduate from Montclair State University, where he received an award for Excellence in Screenwriting. He’s currently working on screenplays, his debut novel "THE I IN EVIL", and various other projects, and can be followed on Twitter: @movieguyiguess.
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