It’s certainly not a new concept to we horror fans that the things that are the most terrible are often the things we carry within us. Now, I’m not exactly talking The Exorcist or Possession, here — I mean those burdens that we set up within ourselves; those mental and emotional shackles of our own creation that weigh us down, color our perceptions, and indeed, alter our subjective worlds and the way that we live in them. It’s not every day that a film exploring these ironically non-existent yet very real horrors in life hits the bricks that explores them in a sinister light rather than a dramatic one — Antichrist and The Babadook spring to recent memory for such films. As these two examples show, when such a flick is made, they often take on a fearsome yet artistic bent, often embellishing the darkness of our own deeply-cultivated, painful inner turmoils with a patina of chilling fantasy.
One such film of this nature that I’ve been lucky enough to check out has been Kim Barr’s recent short, A Late Thaw.
Tara and her boyfriend Stephane have a comfortable, happy life together. Still, when he announces he’s ready to elevate their relationship to a new level with news that he’s found them the perfect house, she seems disconcerted, dodgy even. Stephane is a great guy, and she loves him dearly, but the prospect of a higher level of commitment brings to mind painful memories — memories of a former love whose untimely, accidental death left her broken and guilt-ridden. As she explores the new home, strange apparitions begin to plague her — snow impossibly falls in the stairwell and rooms, and her old love beckons to her from beyond. The pain in her soul matching the coldness of the wintry visions she beholds, she continues to hold back the deepest part of herself from Stephane, despite the encouragement of friends to move on and be happy in her new life. Finally, she reaches a point of revelation, discarding the physical ties to her memories of the man she lost — but will the frozen specter of the past let her go?
Beautifully shot and acted, this film grabs you and refuses to let go within its short runtime. Barr’s visuals and narrative progression is spot-on, and I found myself easily and inexorably bound to Tara for the duration, weathering both the emotional and metaphysical storms right along with her.
Each of us viewers has dealt with tragedy in life, and the flow of this film does a remarkable job of conveying the pressures and despair that such painful memories bring. Helena Marie, as Tara, expresses both the pain of her memories as well as her desperation to be free of it, all convincingly and without overreaching. Though it is this character that the film revolves around, co-stars Lucas Chartier-Dessert as Stephane, Michelle Boback as Tara’s best friend Carol-Anne, and Ivan Peric as the grim, frosted ghost of the lost love Glenn — each contribute strongly to the effect of the film as a whole, deftly providing points of sympathy, emotional anchorage, and a frightening reminder of the power of sorrowful memory to the narrative.
This film is one of the most poignant allegories for grief that I’ve seen — from it rearing it’s ugly head when life seems best, to the weighty, soul-chilling burden it lays upon us when we become consumed by it. Though not what we here at the ‘Corpse generally expect when we check out horror films, A Late Thaw perfectly displays the all too real horror of all-consuming sorrow, and as such is a success.
Two-fifths of a nickel down.
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