Showing posts from August, 2022

Chained (2012)

Held captive by a serial killer since the age of 8, a teenaged boy must choose between escape or becoming his captor's unwilling protégé. Written and directed by Jennifer Lynch (based on a screenplay by Damian O'Donnell) Chained is an unflinching exploration of how monsters are made. As with her earlier titles Boxing Helena (1993) and Surveillance (2008), Lynch invites us to explore the darkest corners of human psychology, and the violent depravities people inflict upon one another. Shot in two weeks on a very low budget, Chained at times resembles a stage play, with its singular location and story driven by two characters. After a queasily suspenseful opening in which a woman (Julia Ormond) and her young son are abducted in broad daylight, the story, like its young protagonist Rabbit, becomes bound to the grim interior of the killer’s house, with its boarded-up windows, yellowing wallpaper, and harsh lighting. Lynch conjures a moody, ‘homey nausea’* which speaks to the rot

Master (2022)

Written and directed by Mariama Diallo, and inspired by her own experiences as a student at Yale, Master tells of two Black women struggling to navigate life at a predominately white university ‘as old as the country.’ Their experiences of casual racism, micro-aggression, and tokenism, play out against a backdrop of whispers of an ancient vengeful witch who haunts the campus… With its combination of shivery supernatural horror and real-life horror, Master is a powerful, unsettling and at times distressing watch. Gail (Regina Hall) and Jasmine (Zoe Renee) not only encounter suggestive supernatural menace lurking in the dark corners of the vast, spooky university buildings, but every-day menace in the form of racist adversity from colleagues and fellow students. Gail has been appointed the first black 'Master' (while it has uncomfortable connotations of slavery, it's an esteemed faculty position overseeing halls of residence) of the university. Tellingly, when she arrives

Amulet (2020)

Written and directed by Romola Garai, Amulet tells of a troubled, displaced ex-soldier who is offered a place to stay at a decrepit old house in London, inhabited only by a young woman and her dying mother (who resides in the attic, no less). Before long, he begins to suspect something sinister is afoot... Flirting with various tropes from demonic possession and haunted house films (warnings to stay out of the attic, things heard moving in the walls, horrifying discoveries in the decaying plumbing), Garai masterfully sets the scene and creates a portentous, gloomy atmosphere before eventually lifting the curtain to reveal a truly original and terrifying fable of feminist revenge. With its exploration of forbidden spaces, depictions of the monstrous in its myriad forms and reflections on trauma, abuse and gender, Amulet is a highly unsettling and atmospheric work that wields a strange, undeniable power. Throughout, Garai maintains an insidiously creepy approach, her deliberate directi

You Are Not My Mother (2021)

When her missing mother reappears, teenaged Char begins to suspect she is an otherworldly imposter. Written and directed by Irish filmmaker Kate Dolan, You Are Not My Mother taps into some truly primal fears – parental abandonment, being harmed by those meant to protect us, and being ostracised from our community. The carefully nuanced screenplay ensures an enthralling ambiguity throughout. Char’s mother has a history of depression and mental health issues – are the changes she exhibits due to her ill health? Her medication? Or something more unnatural ? Dolan’s writing and direction are bolstered by incredibly strong, compelling performances, particularly from Hazel Doupe as Char and Carolyn Bracken as her mother Angela. Char is a subdued, quiet girl with no friends. Doupe’s ability to convey so much internalised emotion, worry and pain is especially captivating. Bracken also delivers a memorably striking performance, the physical aspects of which create a sense of unease and eventu