The other night I was watching, not for the first time, the post-war black-and-white movie Sorry, Wrong Number. It was based on a radio play, and the basic material is very simple, albeit expanded for the film. It's a masterpiece of economy as well as suspense, squeezing every ounce of tension out of the set-up. I thought about it when I was watching a recent film, Grand Isle, which in many ways could hardly be more different.
The setting in the old film is restricted - it's essentially a 'home invasion' story - whereas Grand Isle is a real place in Louisiana with an interesting history and tons of atmosphere. It's vulnerable to hurricanes, and a hurricane is coming when the story begins. Grand Isle benefits from the presence in the cast of Nicolas Cage and Kelsey Grammer, as well as a situation ripe with possibilities.
A young man called Buddy (Luke Benward) who is desperate for money is given a handyman's job by Cage, playing a menacing ex-Marine, and his seductive wife Fanny (KaDee Strickland). Their house contains secrets, that seems certain. There's more to this set-up than home invasion.
Unfortunately, the script squanders the potential of the situation, to an extent that I find astonishing. Much of the story is told in flashback, in a way that became irritating. Even the big reveal at the end is thrown away, reported rather than played out before our eyes. The current approval rating for the film on Rotten Tomatoes is 0%, and although such measures are imperfect, and the film is actually better than that, it really is a disappointing waste of talent. Give me Sorry, Wrong Number any day.