• Director: Christopher Denham
  • Writers: Christopher Denham
  • Stars: Rebeca Robles, Andy Gershenzon


Where to begin with Old Flame? Innocuously described as a story of two ex lovers reconnecting at a college reunion only to find that they share a dangerous secret, the mind begins to imagine various scenarios where that dark secret either ruins or rekindles their long lost relationship. There are so many ways I expected this film to go, but none of them involved simply watching two actors share dialogue for 91 minutes.

Split into three acts, Old Flame introduces us to Calvin Green while he’s in his hotel room. Out of town to host a college reunion, Calvin is having a fun, breezy conversation with his two children before heading out to set up a meet and greet for his fellow alumni of years past. Every inch the typical middle aged white guy, Calvin is wearing chinos, a blue button down shirt and the same haircut that undoubtedly every other man at his office wears. Calvin is milquetoast. You couldn’t pick Calvin out of a lineup at the New Balance store.

Rachel Lerner, on the other hand, is effortless and perfectly imperfect in her casual skirt and loose, wavy hair. Arriving to the reunion early, Calvin initially blows her off until he realizes that he isn’t speaking with any old past alumni, but with an ex girlfriend. Genuinely surprised and charmed by her appearance, Calvin can’t help remarking on how she still looks exactly the same while he has clearly leaned into his role as husband and father. After some lame dad jokes, superficial chatter and an undercurrent of antagonism coming from Rachel, the two fall into an easy banter and decide to go have a drink together at the hotel bar.

As they become more comfortable, the conversation begins to take various turns. Calvin reminisces about how in love he had been with Rachel and, ultimately, admits to never having gotten over her. Conversely, Rachel begins to let her cool girl exterior slip when it becomes obvious that she has been casually stalking Calvin on social media. Rachel also starts talking about so many things that are just this side of normal, that when she says she’s a compulsive liar, you really don’t know if you should believe her or chalk it up to her off kilter brand of humor. Something in the air has shifted, but Calvin has had too many drinks to notice it and it’s here at the 43 minute mark when Rachel says something that will forever change both of their lives.

Writer/director Christopher Denham has chosen to tread into the #MeToo waters via a laser focused script that deftly traverses various layers of the current feminist ideology and toxic double speak of white male privilege: and Calvin is the one from whom it all spews. Friends, none of us were prepared for a cerebral rape/revenge film that is more like a stage play than a film. I had no idea I was missing this in my life.

Up until this moment, the viewer is kind of lulled into forgetting that they are watching a horror film. If Audition and His Girl Friday met in some wacked-out cinematic elevator Rubik’s Cube à la Cabin in the Woods, you would get Old Flame. Rebeca Robles and Andy Gershenzon are absolutely stunning with their quick fire banter that always seems to have a hint of aggression to it. These are ex lovers who clearly did not part ways amicably, but one of them has been much angrier about it than the other.

Old Flame would, quite literally, be nothing without Robles and Gershenzon’s dedication to their roles. Gershenzon has to sell the goofy, earnest to the point of obnoxiousness good ‘ol suburban dad and then turn around and also have us never questioning how he’s so successful in his law career. He goes from cloyingly nerdy to the kind of man no woman wants to be alone with and it’s amazing. Robles expertly plays the manic pixie dream girl only to prove to us that she is anything but. Just when you think you’re watching amateur hour, Rachel uses her barbed tongue to absolutely eviscerate Calvin and he gives just as good as he gets. Denham expertly writes both sides of the he said/she said argument, complete with all of the appropriate buzz words and platitudes. This is Denham’s third writing/directing outing and it’s his best. As the third act begins to culminate in a truly fucked up scenario, it’s here that you see all of the verbal bread crumbs come together in a spectacularly twisted moment of truth. For this fan of the rape//revenge genre, I’d like to believe that this is the kind of dialogue Jennifer was working on in that remote cabin when things went so very wrong. Without an ounce of blood, zero gratuity of any kind and absolutely no violence, Old Flame still manages to pack a punch in it’s final moments and will have you questioning who you believe.

Played at Brooklyn Horror Film Festival

Lisa Fremont

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