Sam Was Here is a 2016 Horror/Mystery/Thriller that was co-written & directed by Christophe Deroo. It follows Sam, a door-to-door salesman who travels to a strange town in the middle of the Mojave Desert. He knocks on a couple of doors but nobody answers. Everywhere he goes; it’s as if the townspeople had suddenly vanished. There are signs that people had been there quite recently but nobody can be found. If that wasn’t bad enough, his car breaks down. As a strange red glow hovers on the horizon, Sam becomes a prisoner of the hostile environment.
The phones are working, Sam attempts to call his wife but she never answers. As he continues to explore the town, Sam comes to the realization that something terrible must have taken place. In fact, A room at the local motel is excessively chained shut, as if some kind of horrific crime had happened there. A mysterious local radio station takes calls from listeners who share their thoughts on a child killer at large in the area. Suddenly, Sam begins to receive abusive messages on his pager. Slowly, he begins to breakdown psychologically. Before long, people wearing masks appear and attempt to murder Sam.
Sam has become a target and he must now defend himself. Little by little he loses it, caught up in a paranoid identity crisis. Is he truly the killer they’re after, or is he being driven to become so?
The scenario that Sam Was Here presents is awesome; it had my mind racing with possibilities of what might be happening. It’s a simple enough concept but one that is very effective at creating a wonderfully creepy atmosphere. You imagine what you might do in the same horrific situation. Your car is busted and walking isn’t exactly an option. I doubt I’d spend the night at the motel in the room that neighbours the chained door though.
This is a strange film; it feels like almost everything is some type of metaphor for something else. Sam never reacts in ways that you’d expect, he even brushes off the fact that a serial killer is on the loose. In fact I got the impression that Sam was somehow tied to the town and subconsciously he didn’t actually want to leave. He does try but even after that he seems more determined to stay than leave. Also, when given the opportunity to ask questions he never asks the right ones. Again, it is as if subconsciously he doesn’t want to know the answers.
One thing I can say for certain is this; the soundtrack in the film is fantastic. I’m a sucker for pretty much any synth score, this is a good one.
Also, I felt that the performances were quite strong as a whole. Rusty Joiner (Sam) spends a good amount of time completely alone on screen, he carries things well. I thought he displayed the paranoia and obvious inner conflict that Sam was experiencing impressively.
We have a horror movie with solid acting, an intriguing story, atmosphere and an awesome soundtrack. That’s the kind of combination you’d be lucky to get in any film but here comes the bad news.
I have nothing against ambiguity, some films benefit from it. However, then there are movies like Sam Was Here that does not. It’s strange; the question it presents isn’t even very complex. Will Sam be revealed to be the deranged killer or are the townspeople attempting to force him to fit the mold? Now, that doesn’t sound too mind bending does it? In all honesty, the biggest problem is that you’re given virtually no answers.
The little things it does give you could easily be interpreted in different ways or even staged all together. Like I said, it seemed to be like the whole thing was one big metaphor but I can only speculate as to what that is. Was Sam simply stuck in some kind of Silent Hill esque hell? I have no idea; there are a number of possibilities. If you like movies with zero explanations then this is certainly the one for you.
Overall, Sam Was Here is an enjoyable ride but the ending & lack of understanding for pretty much everything leaves a bitter taste.
Sam Was Here