One of the more impressive qualities of Battlecreek, a slowburn drama set in a sultry Mississippi town, is the way it upends audience expectations by taking a surprise detour or two while covering familiar ground.
Throughout much of her sophomore feature (after 2007’s Rails & Ties), director Alison Eastwood does not transcend so much as artfully paper over the clichés and contrivances of a script, by Anthea Anka, that could easily be reconstituted as a stage play with only minor tweaking. But give Anka this much: When push comes to shove, she makes the resolution of her scenario all the more dramatically and emotionally satisfying by revealing that, in at least two cases, what appeared to be set-ups were in fact fake-outs.
It also helps that the movie is anchored by the sensitive and engaging performance of Bill Skarsgard “It”as Henry, a budding artist and chronic introvert who, because of a rare skin condition, must avoid any exposure to direct sunlight. As a child, Henry wandered outside his house one afternoon — and wound up with reddish scars on his neck and chest. Ever since, he has been, in the words of Robert Frost, his favorite poet, “one acquainted with the night.”