Most people likely think of the Lord of the Rings films when they hear Elijah Wood’s name because it is his most well known character, and really brought him back to the big roles. Yet, he’s kind of stepped back nowadays, and is doing things he loves rather than what’s going to win him awards. In 2010, Wood opened his own production company – SpectreVision – which focuses on indie horror films. The first of the bunch was Toad Road, which was terrible, but their latest title, Cooties, is getting some big nods.
Wood burst into the horror scene last year in the film Maniac, which was a remake of the 1980s horror film of the same name. He gave a chilling performance, and it was easily one of the highlights for the genre last year. When I saw that Grand Piano was available to “rent” on Amazon while it had its limited theatrical run, I passed it over. But then I realized it is basically Phone Booth with a piano, so I gave it a shot.
Tom Selznick is an up-and-coming Pianist, but his world crumbles after developing stage fright during a performance. Five years later he’s ready to give it another shot. He settles onto his bench, opens his sheet music, and reads a warning: “one wrong note and you’ll die”. This puts a lot more on the line than just his comeback, and soon his friends and family in the audience are threatened.
The story of Grand Piano is not believable, but damn, it’s an entertaining ride. Clocking in at less than 90-minutes, the film hooked me and took me for a fun little trip. Things get funky in the final act, but that’s to be expected with this type of “one room” film. I really enjoyed the tension and suspense of the film up until the climax. Sadly, the ending seems to be missing something, and a few of the twists become laughable with their delivery.
Wood gives a great performance here, and while it isn’t as good as his role in Maniac, he’s both likable and charming. John Cusack, while not your typical villain, does a nice enough job as the threatening voice on the earpiece. Everyone else was pretty much spot on, but none are given more than a few minutes here or there on-screen.
Eugenio Mira directs, and while I haven’t seen any of his previous films, I have to admit that The Birthday sounds very interesting, and has been added to my list. He pays homage to Hitchcock with a few key shots throughout the film, and while writer Damien Chazelle’s script buckles in the third act (he wrote the script for The Last Exorcism: Part 2 as well), it still offers some quick wit and plenty of thrills, more so than most films in this same subgenre have been able to pull off.
Grand Piano is tightly shot, and has a brisk runtime that really helps everything come together. While it won’t please everyone, it’s a highly entertaining film if you sit back and turn your brain down a little. Overthink everything and it will fall apart quicker than the finale does. With that said, I do recommend Grand Piano if you’re into “Hitchcockian” thrillers, as we don’t get them too often these days.
Chris was raised on horror films, which gave him a deep love for the genre, especially its most quirky and offbeat titles (like A Nightmare on Elm Street 2). This love quickly turned into an obsession for cinema in 1997, when he decided he needed to see every major theatrical release. Video games (JRPGs), reading (anything but fantasy), and reality television (Survivor) are just some of his other passions. He’s been with Cinefessions since 2013, and has been writing reviews all over the internet for the past twelve years.