The biggest problem with breakups is always in the aftermath, the unexpected reminders that can bring everything back when you’re not really prepared for it. Hearing the ex’s favorite song is a classic, but there are plenty of other things. Maybe you go looking for something of yours and instead find an item the ex left behind. It might be as unromantic as a hairbrush or a statue of a Hindu god, but it’s still more than enough to bring a flood of memories. In Self-Storage, a random group of such bittersweet reminders of the past suddenly take on a great deal of importance for the present.
Conrad (Garrett Wagner) was dumped last Christmas by his longtime girlfriend Olivia (Alexandria Rousset). There’s no good time of year for dumping someone, but that is a particularly nasty time of year. But Conrad is still tortured by the loss, not least because he doesn’t know exactly why he was dumped. His best friend Freddy (Connor McCafferty), who sometimes looks like a hippie and sometimes like a member of the Future Business Leaders of America, is doing his best to cheer his friend up, but that’s no easy task. When Freddy discovers that Conrad still has The Box — an old FedEx box containing all the little things that make him think of Olivia — Freddy insists that his friend burn it and move on.
Though Conrad promises that he will, he in fact sneaks the box over to his self-storage unit so Freddy won’t see it. No sooner does Conrad arrive at the storage facility, however, than strange things start happening. When he realizes that someone wants to make sure that he never leaves the storage building alive, he fights back with the only weapons he has to hand — Olivia’s mementos.
It’s a clever premise, creating some bizarrely interesting moments during the fight for survival. A little strangeness can be a great way to up the tension. The setting is also first-rate — there are few places more claustrophobic or impersonal than a self-storage facility, which helps to create a sense that the poor, hapless Conrad is very far from any assistance, never mind safety.
The big reveal is less satisfactory, however, being too drawn out and more complicated than it needs to be. Still, the previous cat and mouse pursuit is done well, and the very last scene is excellent, making it overall a solid piece of entertainment that shows what can be done with a small budget and some creativity. Conrad is sometimes almost too slow on the uptake to be believed, but otherwise does a fine job of portraying a nice guy who’s in way over his head, while Freddy takes the best friend trope to new heights, or perhaps new depths. It’s a creative thriller from writer-director Pat Collier that offers a new take on the old souvenirs we all can’t let go of.