The Waiting Place (2001)

Sex :
Violence :
Director Cristobel Araus Lobos
Writers Cristobal Araus Lobos, Dane Giraud
Starring Dave Perrett,Dane Giraud
Genre Psychological
Tagline There are some places you should not go …


Shot for a reported $60,000 on digital cameras The Waiting Place is a return to the disquieting cinema of New Zealand. Director Cristobel Araus Lobos primarily used the abandoned Lake Alice Psychiatric Hospital near Wanganui as a location for her dark psychological study and this proves to be a winner. Besides strong performances from the two shot leads the Hospital location itself adds an uneasy atmosphere where you expect the worse, but are still delivered with one shocking scene that will leave you looking like a deer staring into head lights.

Belmont is serving a life sentence for the murder of his wife's lover. Unsettled by his crime Belmont surprisingly stays in contact with his wife Susie. With a fellow inmate, the menacing and quit possibly psychotic Ramsay, Belmont goes over the wall and the pair trek across the harsh Kiwi bush toward their destination, a derelict former Psychiatric Hospital closed by the Government. The plan is for Susie to pick the pair up for a “ride to freedom” i.e to JAFA del Casa. After reaching the Hospital Belmont and Ramsay have nothing to do but wait. They start to revisit their past and the tension mounts between the pair as a power struggle erupts. Some places should not be revisited and the location itself leads to a shocking and totally surprising conclusion.

Director Cristobel Araus Lobos and fellow writer Dane Giraud got me with this movie. I was not expecting the twist at the end and the reversal of the two major characters relative positions. The movie is unsettling and follows the tradition of what Sam Neil has called the cinema of unease. We are presented with a dark and brooding film where the sins of the past will come back in shocking ways. It's quite the achievement and lovers of quality movies will be held spellbound by this fiercely independent production. If however after a polished Hollywood style PG13 gore outing then look elsewhere.

In the first block of the movie Director Lobos takes an almost Man Alone approach, introducing her characters via the harsh New Zealand “bush” landscape. I was particularly giving two thumbs up for the trek across the super volcano out Taupo way. Belmont (Dave Perrett) seems the more likeable of the duo with Ramsay (Dane Giraud) showing an unbalanced nature. Belmont eventually tries to escape from Ramsay's dubious company leading to the second block of the movie where Belmont is alone in the abandoned Hospital. Plenty of shots through framing windows and doors, with long hallways and decomposing rooms providing an unsettling atmosphere. Lobos manages to bring the Hospital into play as another character in a similar fashion to Brad Anderson's approach in the excellent Session 9 (2001). As regular dark genre viewers know, abandoned Psychiatric Hospitals pretty much aren't a good place to visit. The final block sees Ramsay crashing the scene and conflicts escalating.

Where Lobos scores heavily with The Waiting Place is pining her movie on the relationship between the two leads and then unexpectedly switching their positions. Neither man is able to articulate their view leading to rising tension and the onslaught of madness that has after all been just below the surface to begin with. Lobos doesn't fall into the trap of having either lead appear to be more than they actually are, the viewer is forced to determine what is real and what is self delusional via concentrating on the movie. The dialogue becomes almost secondary to the action that seems to take a glacial time to arrive.

Director Lobos presents the audience with a slow burner, if after things going “boo” right from the onset of hostilities then you are in the wrong movie, that dutifully fulfils it's promise moving from the relationship of the two men to the revisiting of a past wrong. The Waiting Place is striking in the extreme psychological approach Lobos takes and is not for the faint hearted. Perhaps the only thing restricting the movie from being a dark and moody classic is the lack of finance to adequately capture the atmosphere and rising tension. Be warned, there's one hell of a twist coming at you that presents a “take no prisoners” approach.

There's not much in the way of release from the relentless nature of the movie. The sets are pretty stark and designed to mirror the inner conflicts of one of the characters and there's pretty much nothing in the way of props, CGI, or other shenanigans to take the audience away from the relentless nature of what we are seeing. A few scenes involving other characters, one of which made no sense in the overall context as both leads see the other characters, does break things up without affecting the pacing or rising tension of the movie.

If after a deep psychological thriller with real characters and believable dialogue then you are in the right place. Director Lobos kicks a major with The Waiting Place. If after more details on the movie then point your browser to NZ Videos.

Being a huge fan of psychological rather than gore horror I was having a lot of fun watching The Waiting Place till the twist came at me leaving me staring at my screen like a stunned mullet. Lobos kicked my expectations out from under me and slam dunked a movie over the top of them. It's a crying shame Lobos hasn't as yet been given a larger budget and another dark genre movie to direct.

ScaryMinds Rates this movie as ...

  Another polish of the script needed and a remake with the proper financing would kick bum.