At first glance, the 2013 independent film Tilt sounds like your typical B-movie revenge-thriller. But settling for that misguided impression would mean missing out on a strong feature that defintely deserves your attention. Sure, the basic setup is familiar (but certainly not trivial): a young woman is roofied at the local bar, and later raped by an unknown assailant. Her father, filled with grief and rage, is determined to deliver his own brand of bloody vigilante justice. Twists and turns in whodunit films like these are often a dime-a-dozen, but what’s rarer is to find, nestled among those familiar plot points and twists, an emotional and engaging core. Luckily for us, that’s just what Tilt has going for it.
Tilt’s tagline is simply “Everything is not fine”, and from the very beginning of the film, we’re shown just how true that statement is. The movie starts by tapping us into the all-too-familiar mess that is small town life – everyone knows everyone else, but that doesn’t mean most of them have to like each other. There’s no real figure of power or importance in the town, and little or nothing of interest ever seems to occur. Everyone’s life seems mediocre at best, and miserable at worst. The atmosphere of isolated small town life we’re presented with here holds echoes of films like Winter’s Bone, and it’s extremely effective.
In the midst of all this casual drudgery is Paul (played by Wade Dienert), a closed-off, angry man overshadowed by his past – a past that he’s constantly reminded of by the presence of his largely estranged daughter Liz (Danielle West). In a small town like this one, ‘estranged’ has a more painful meaning than it might somewhere else, and the memory of what happened to tear Paul’s family apart is still fresh in the collective memory of the place.
Tilt Teaser Trailer
Things take a turn for the worse when Liz is assaulted one night and her attacker escapes, leaving Liz too traumatized to remember what occurred. Here is where the film really begins to find its strength – namely, the reforging of the bond between Paul and Liz. It’s painful, it’s frustrating, and it doesn’t go smoothly all the time. In short, it feels real. And just as importantly, it drives the ‘revenge’ portion of the movie, giving it cause and emotional resonance that elevates Tilt above many paint by the number thrillers.
Wade Dienert is outstanding as Paul. Where there could have been a one-dimensional, violent male archetype, Dienert instead embodies a conflicted man whom we may not agree with, but certainly feel for. When we meet him, his family is shattered, his wife dead and his daughter estranged…and Paul feels helpless to do anything about it. In him, we see a man capable of action, but seemingly spinning in circles inside his own skin. He goes through all the motions regular people are supposed to: he goes to work during the day and out to the bar at night. But he’s disconnected from everyone and everything around him. He can’t enjoy a Bear Claw at work, he’s oblivious to the affections of his overeager secretary, and making idle small talk with his friend at the bar is both tedious and painful. There’s a numbness he just can’t seem to shake – until Liz is hurt. Only then is he handed the opportunity to change things, and the choices he makes from then on both bring him closer to his daughter and pull him away from everyone and everything else…even, in some ways, his own humanity.
Danielle West turns in a great performance as Liz. Clearly, the character has her own ways of coping with the dissolution of her family, and meeting her father’s defensive tendencies with her own is just one of them. Watching West and Dienert together as their characters ever so slowly open up to one another is exciting to watch, and the absolute emotional core of Tilt.
The storytelling feels choppy at times, and the revenge-thriller aspect of the film is often less interesting than the character development and quiet conversational scenes that punctuate it. Truthfully, though, that’s not a bad thing. The quieter moments give both the writing and performances time to really shine through. Low-budget revenge flicks are easy to find, and most just as easy to forget. Tilt is not one of those films.
Tilt is currently screening on the festival circuit in advance of a distribution deal. You can find them online at Facebook for more.or on