There is horror and pity in witnessing the mind of a loved one as it unravels and fragments. This is the misfortune of Kay who is called by concerned neighbours when her elderly mother Edna disappears from her isolated home in the woods. Taking her own daughter Samantha with her for moral support, they set off to the old family house to see what might have become of Grandma Edna. The first feature from Japanese-Australian Natalie Erika James’, Relic manifests its horrors slowly, perhaps influenced in part by the bleak emotional mood of J-horror family drama.
If David Cronenberg was the prime mover of the horror sub-genre known as ‘body horror’, his son Brandon is taking it to the next level. With Possessor, his second feature after debut Antiviral, Brandon Cronenberg starts with a scene that braces you for the bloodletting that will come… A young woman stands in the bathroom of a hotel and stabs a long metal electrode into her skull as blood seeps around the wound. Her face runs through a gamut of emotions as the electrode fulfils its mysterious purpose in her brain.
“You have a very special nature. One we have worked hard together to unlock.”
For some people, confronting a house full of ghosts might seem a more benign situation than braving a pack of judgemental housewives, especially in the 1950s, an era haunted by impossible standards for women. Finding herself amongst the snooty wives of academics, Shirley Jackson must often have been the target of their gossip and probably preferred to imagine herself trapped in ‘Hill House’. Jackson reputedly cultivated an interesting, if fearsome, persona – prickly, idiosyncratic, unkempt, contemptuous. She was tolerated in academic circles, being a successful author in her own right.
“Let’s pray for a boy. The world is too cruel to girls.”
There can be few things as psychologically damaging as being trapped in solitary confinement with someone you hate. For his follow-up to The Witch, Robert Eggers delivers a grim, hallucinatory story about two men shut up in a lighthouse tower, going slowly mad in their mutual loathing. Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson are Tom Wake and Ephraim Winslow – arriving to work for a month-long shift at a remote, rain-lashed lighthouse, somewhere off the coast of 19th century Maine. Wake is a veteran lighthouse keeper (wickie), as salty a sea dog as one might wish to meet…
“There is enchantment in the light.”
I have to admit, straight off the bat, that I’m an absolute sucker for Agatha Christie-type whodunnits, so too is self-confessed fan, writer/director Rian Johnson, as he admitted during his talk at the recent BFI London Film Festival. He certainly demonstrates his love for the genre in his spirited and inventive homage, Knives Out. Johnson knows that half the fun lies in our recognition of the rules of the game, so he immediately provides his audience with a rambling, labyrinthine, old house in the countryside, full of curiosities and knick-knacks, a wealthy patriarch, and a large family with many secrets.