Kryptic is a Lynchian-like thriller that indulges in its confusing, confronting narrative: SXSW Film & TV Festival Review

Towards the beginning of the creepy and ambiguous Kryptic, a tour guide overseeing the Cedar Springs Women’s Walking Club explains what cryptozoology is.  “It means the study of the hidden,” he states as he details Barb Valentine, a cryptozoologist who went missing in the very same British Columbia hinterland the group is currently hiking through.

Her disappearance is linked to a local legend known as Sooka, “a tall, bipedal creature” that is said to cause metaphyiscal disturbances that allegedly tamper with the space-time continuum of a few unlucky souls.  Barb “probably just up and left, pissed at her man,” says one unphased hiking party member, but Kay Hall (Chloe Pirrie) doesn’t find anything amusing in such a statement.  In fact, Kay, grave-faced and introverted, isn’t even sure who she is, having seemingly experienced her own alien encounter in the woods, leading the group to believe that, initially, she has disappeared in a manner not unlike the infamous Barb.

When she returns to the group, who had started giving up hope of her returning, her demeanour has instantly shifted.  She has to check her I.D. to remember who she is and where she lives, and when she’s back in her own home she struggles to feel comfortable and remember her profession; “I’m a fucking vet?”, she exclaims when seeing her workplace.  Unable to resume her everyday life, Kay starts retracing the last known steps of Barb, ultimately coming to the conclusion that her disoriented state and experience is linked to Barb’s disappearance.

Kay’s journey to uncovering the truth leads her – and the audience – on a Lynchian-like exploration, putting her in contact with a heft of unique, intertwined characters – a motelier (Patti Allan) she shares cocktails with, an amateur cryptozoologist (Pam Kearns) whose daughter has similarly disappeared, an ex-magician (Jennifer Copping) with a glittery stage cloak that’s armed with a shield of confidence, a trailer-park mother (Christina Lewall) who claims to have seen Sooka herself, and that mother’s trans daughter (Ali Rusu-Tahir), who identifies with Kay’s sense of alienation – who fill the void whenever she isn’t blacking out and suffering from raw, graphic visions (or are they?) of a monstrous form she’s almost sexually tethered to.

Whether the Sooka is a physical being or more a representation of an inner turmoil that Barb/Kay needs releasing – there’s a subplot involving the unnerving environment of Barb’s homelife with her still-publicly-grieving husband (Jeff Gladstone) that fans the notion of not feeling safe in your own home – is up to the individual viewer, and it’s what makes Kryptic such an imprint of a movie.  A feminist-driven revenge movie as much as it is a a sickening (at times) creature feature, director Kourtney Roy has intentionally developed the thinking man’s thriller, with Paul Bromley‘s script indulging in its wicked, chameleon-like mentality.

Confusing and confronting, metaphorical and macabre, Kryptic is a dark fairytale of the little-girl-lost temperament that needs to be experienced above all.  It may not make sense, but it’s undeniable how much you’ll remember.


Kryptic is screening as part of this year’s SXSW Film & TV Festival, running between March 8th and 16th, 2024.  For more information on this year’s festival, head to the official SXSW website.

Peter Gray

Film critic with a penchant for Dwayne Johnson, Jason Momoa, Michelle Pfeiffer and horror movies, harbouring the desire to be a face of entertainment news.