The Mill, Hulu’s latest dip into the thriller genre, has Lil Rel Howery waking up in a nightmare. Joe Stevens (Howery) works in mid management at Mallard, a humongous corporation that wants to be everyone’s company – for life. Things are going relatively well for Joe. His wife Kate (Karen Obilom) is pregnant with their first child. He has been with Mallard for about 10 years. Sure, he may be stuck at level 8 – but that promotion is coming one of these days! And yeah, maybe he’s been using a bit more PTO than he should be, but hey – its technically unlimited. Plus, he’ll make up for that time and work extra hard after the baby comes. That is, if he ever gets the chance.
Joe wakes up in a complete daze, completely disoriented. He’s wearing a suit, dressed for success. Looking around, Joe quickly realizes things have gone off the rails. He’s in a prison cell with a grist mill in the center. Things go from bad to worse as he hears screaming off in the distance at midnight. Joe is able to talk to his neighboring prisoner through a vent in the wall – the lone voice of reason trying to calm him down. Joe then realizes that he is in this predicament because of Mallard and that he is taking part in ‘Advanced Career Training.’ His task – to push the grist mill a certain amount a day. He either meets his quota, or he’s terminated.
Sean King O’Grady directed the film while Jeffrey David Thomas wrote the script. O’Grady has had some feature length films before, but The Mill is only his second feature length that was not a documentary. On the other hand, The Mill is the debut for Thomas. Even without an extensive catalogue, O’Grady and Thomas create a tense and enjoyable thriller. They establish an unnerving atmosphere that remains consistent throughout the runtime. O’Grady and Thomas take a solid concept and craft an impressive psychology thriller. They don’t need to rely on blood and gore for thrills. The use of smart dialogue and bleak visuals is all they need to build suspense and keep the audience guessing.
Howery has the entire film centered around him. It is an opportunity for him to showcase his acting and carry a film. The Mill practically takes place in one room with no one on screen but Howery. He interacts with a few voices here and there, but that’s about it. Howery doesn’t shy away from the challenge and delivers a commendable performance. Thomas’s script allows him moments for his signature comedic style to show, mixed with a healthy dose of dread. Just as Mallard messes with Joe’s mind, the film does the same with the audience. O’Grady manages to weave Mallard into the presentation of the film in a unique and memorable way. It’s simple, but clever and highly effective. The film is perfect for spooky season and the lack of gore makes it suitable for a wider audience. The Mill is a unique thriller and certainly worth a watch.
The Mill is streaming now on Hulu.