My mantra has always been --- a good movie is all about the writing. First-time filmmaker Jeff Hindenach has penned an exceptional screenplay, LOST INSIDE, and has rounded up three convincing actors to bring it to life.


Spencer Scruggs plays Benji Williams, a former rock star who hasn’t left his apartment in five years after a meltdown at an awards show. As a coping mechanism, he’s created an imaginary friend named Jordan Tyler (Garret Ryan), whose goal is to get Benji out and about. He needs to start living again and Jordan plans to needle him all the way.


But Benji has become totally agoraphobic and not even Jordan nor his new, very friendly neighbor, Sylvia (Serra Naiman), can convince him to set foot outside the apartment. Sylvia, however, is determined to win Benji over and help him conquer his fears.


She starts small with little victories --- it’s a very slow process --- until she has him playing games sitting in the hallway. From there things accelerate until Benji learns the real reason Sylvia has been willing to spend so much time helping him get his life back on track.


Hindenach has taken on a lot here with LOST INSIDE. It’s not easy to vanquish depression and its lingering side effects in one indie script, but he does manage to deal deftly with the subject without trivializing it. Jordan provides much of the comic relief, especially with his refusal to honor Benji’s demand that he not drop his cigarette ashes into his mother’s urn. More importantly, Jordan allows Benji to work through things by challenging his reasoning.


As director, Hindenach has ably captured the overwhelming feeling of claustrophobia within Benji’s humble abode. The apartment is a complete mess, while Benji exercises, plays video games and spends time on his computer oblivious to the fact that he’s living in near squalor. You can almost catch a whiff of what it must smell like to an outsider.


The one slight drawback is Scruggs. Initially, he’s a tad wooden as Benji, but he does improve marginally as LOST INSIDE moves along. Ryan is a hoot, playing the antagonist to near perfection. But it is definitely Naiman who steals the film. She’s charming and delightful, perfectly cast as the quirky love interest for the suffering agoraphobic. She has a naturalness about her that imbues Sylvia with a special kindness and understanding. She’s terrific.


LOST INSIDE is a solid first effort by Hindenach. Indie films are important to the industry and Hindenach has proven himself a worthy participant.


Available on Amazon, Apple, Vudu, YouTube and Vimeo.


Opinion: See It Now!





The premise of first-time director Jeff Hindenach’s film LOST INSIDE is a simple one. Former rock star Benji Williams (Spencer Scruggs), adored by fans everywhere, has a mental lapse at an awards show, and ends up hiding inside his apartment for five years.


He suffers from agoraphobia, a fear involving anxiety about not being able to escape certain situations or get help, or fear of being overwhelmed. It frequently manifests itself when someone cannot bring themselves to go out in public and therefore remains isolated. This describes Benji’s dilemma perfectly. He orders food to be delivered but demands that his order be left at his door so he can retrieve it when no one is around.


So, what is the most effective way for a director like Hindenach, who also wrote the script, to present Benji’s story in a meaningful and entertaining fashion? He uses the well-worn tactic of an invisible character seen, in this case, only by Benji.


Garret Ryan plays Jordan Tyler, Benji’s imaginary friend whose desire is to have Benji resume his social interactions and resurrect his stultified life. While I am not a big fan of imaginary characters in a story, it feels appropriate for LOST INSIDE in order to reveal Benji’s story and mindset to the viewer.


Meanwhile, a pretty, new tenant named Sylvia (Serra Naiman) has moved in across the hall. She takes an immediate liking to Benji although we soon learn of her ulterior motives. Ultimately her fondness for him is proven to be genuine and voila --- a love story is blooming.


LOST INSIDE could have been a maudlin, sentimental tearjerker but Hindenach’s script is smartly written. Not a word of dialogue is wasted as we wonder if Benji will ever get over his fear.


Scruggs portrays just the right amount of angst giving us a close look at a legitimate problem many people face.

His character is never over-the-top even when running away suddenly from an uncomfortable situation. If Scruggs had not presented us with a sympathetic individual audiences would rightly shun the film.


Naiman is especially credible as someone who wants Benji to be normal again. Ryan’s portrayal is a bit much at times but since he’s playing an imaginary person, we can overlook that. And he’s essentially a likeable guy.


To present a story in such a confined space as Benji’s apartment --- and his hallway --- yet keep it compelling is a challenge that Hindenach has met. You gotta love the use of the skateboard that Sylvia employs to facilitate their game playing. The hallway and skateboard practically become characters of their own.


With his writing, Hindenach does not insult the viewer’s intelligence. His concise screenplay of 99 minutes manages to entertain while addressing a serious subject.


Available on Amazon, Apple, Vudu, YouTube and Vimeo.


Opinion:  See It Now!