I love the many different faces that our beloved horror films take; being a guy that gets his kicks outta writing about how good, bad, or so-bad-they’re-good they are, I get exposed to a pretty wide range of different takes on the genre. Slashers, ghost stories, the ubiquitous found-footage…hell, I’ve even reviewed a psychic POV flick before! The great thing about our favorite films is that they can take so many varied forms, yet still have the impact to grab you by the short hairs, making you wonder what the hell just made that sound out in the driveway while you’re watching them, or perhaps even making you think more profoundly about the world around you.
One avenue that horror films can take is that of the “art-house” film — now you, there in the back, yes, YOU! Don’t make that face at me! Though such films are embraced by a large part of the horror audience, I can understand why to some of the more hardcore crowd, the very pronunciation of those words can bring the wrong kind of chills to your spine, but think before you react. An art-house film can be described as one that is “artistic or experimental in its primary intent“. That said, ask yourself: are you a fan of Argento? Suspiria can most certainly be called an art-house film. What about the more recent films Let The Right One In and Martyrs ? They actually fit the bill as well…as does Kubrick’s The Shining.
So y’see? Art-house doesn’t have to be a bad thing.
That said, I’ll continue…I settled in to check out Brazilian filmmaker Monica Demes recent film, Lilith’s Awakening — as the first feature film thesis project completed under the David Lynch MFA Program, I knew I was in for something surreal.
Lucy is a woman trapped in a colorless life. Her marriage is largely loveless, being painfully submissive to the wishes of her husband, Johnathan, and her job consists of working for her domineering father Abe at his local gas station/garage. Loneliness and monotony are her real companions, save for her recent dreams of a mysterious young woman that bring a spark of fear and life to her wakings. When one of her father’s mechanics, Arthur, makes a somewhat forceful advance on her, she agrees to meet him later, perhaps to add some sort of passion to her life — but she finds that she doesn’t have it in her, and stands him up. Oddly, Arthur goes missing that very night, and through strange visions of the dark woman of her dreams and the overwhelming feelings of dread that she experiences, she feels that something horrible has happened to him, something connected to the dreams of violence and terror that have plagued her — yet she also feels something awakening inside herself…something powerful…something ancient…
Watching this film is like perusing an art gallery — each shot is beautifully-framed and has a life of it’s own despite the black-and-white of the film. They’re almost like darkly sinister still-lifes, the motion (sometimes sped-up to show passage of time) noticeable, yet surreal somehow. The framing of each shot is deliberate, squeezing the most emotion possible out of each scene until we the audience are pushed out of our comfort zones, forced to endure the same loneliness and drudgery as poor Lucy. The effect achieved is one of a kind of sinister, Gothic setting, yet in modern, small town America.
A few times, the film shifts into color, either to accentuate a rare moment of joy, or a much less rare moment of fear — and each time it’s flawless. If you’re into the film, the emotions flow into you from the screen effortlessly, and you could find yourself breathless at Lucy’s tribulations.
All of this, however, would be wasted if not for brilliant performances, and in the case of Sophia Woodward as the beleaguered Lucy, nothing is wasted. I had no problem being wholly and completely swept up by her performance, the gentle nuances and painful expressions of a woman so trapped, so repressed, exemplified by her with grace and convincing finality. Brazilian singer/songwriter Barbara Eugenia, as the dark, titular Lilith, made the most of her screen time with a deep darkness carried behind a youthful yet somehow ancient visage. The men of the cast acquitted themselves well, although this story isn’t about them as much as their effects on Lucy. Of course, the names (Lucy, Johnathan, Arthur, Abraham) aren’t accidental — this should certainly be viewed as a modern, feminine re-telling of the Dracula tale, as others before me have said. The repressed sexuality cleverly hidden in Stoker’s work is brought much more forward here, with a relevance and modern style seldom seen. As with that classic work, you won’t really find much gore in the film…but you will find an oppressive chill that haunts the narrative.
Though Lynch mentored this film, and his influence can definitely be felt, this is not a Lynch clone — Demes has certainly made her own mark, and I’m of the opinion that she made it pretty damned well. I thoroughly enjoyed the film, and find it most assuredly deserving of the accolades is has received, and continues to receive.
If you’re dead-set against artsy films, then of course steer clear; I can also see where the slow-burning nature of the flick might turn some people off, so if you’re one of those that prefers a fast pace, you won’t be happy with this one. However, if you dig films like the ones I mentioned earlier, or are a fan of vampires in general, you should definitely check this one out.
My two for this one,
Latest posts by Andrew Thompson (see all)
- IN MEMORIAM — GEORGE ROMERO 1940 – 2017 - July 17, 2017
- Anticipated PITCHFORK Hits DVD / Blu-ray This Month - May 3, 2017
- Filmmakers Unleash Terrifying OWLMAN On Unsuspecting Urban Explorers - May 2, 2017