eve's bayou | kasi lemmons | samuel l. jackson | jurnee smollett | meagan good | voodoo | history | drama | united states | debbi morgan | jake smollett | ethel ayler | diahann carroll | vondie curtis-hall | roger guenveur smith | lisa nicole carson | branford marsalis
Film: Eve’s Bayou
Director: Kasi Lemmons
Writer: Kasi Lemmons
Starring: Samuel L. Jackson, Jurnee Smollett and Meagan Good
This was a movie that I’ll be honest, I had never heard of until I watched the documentary Horror Noire: A History of Black Horror. Now I do remember when discussing this movie that it might not fully be considered horror. It isn’t even listed as that on the Internet Movie Database or Letterboxd. I still decided to give it a watch as it fit for honoring Black people and women cinema for February. The synopsis here is what did little Eve (Jurnee Smollett) see – and how it will haunt her? Husband, father and womanizer Louis Batiste (Samuel L. Jackson) is the head of an affluent family, but it’s the women who rule this gothic world of secrets, lies and mystic forces.
Now we start this movie in the past. I don’t believe it ever fully tells us when, but I’m assuming that it is the 1940’s or the 1950’s at the latest looking at the fashion and how people are acting. We are getting voice-over narration from Tamara Tunie filling us in on location of this movie. It is named Eve’s Bayou after a freed slave by the name of Eve who saved a rich white man of the area by the name of Batiste. The two were married and many of the residents now are her descendants. We also learn this it the summer where Eve, named after the famous slave, killed her father when she was 10 years old.
We are then at a party. It is here that we get to meet many of the major players. The patriarch of the family is Louis. He’s a local doctor and descended from Eve. He is married to Roz (Lynn Whitfield). They have 3 children with the oldest being Cisely (Meagan Good), Eve and Poe (Jake Smollett). There is some dancing and boozing going on, but everyone seems to be having a good time.
It all takes a turn when Eve gets upset that her father pays more attention to Cisely. She flees to the carriage house where she falls asleep. She gets awoken by her father out there with Matty Mereaux (Lisa Nicole Carson). She sees them having sex and this upsets her. The problem then becomes though that when she relays what she saw to Cisely, she tells her what she saw and makes Eve question her memories.
Being in Louisiana, this movie is dealing a lot in voodoo, fortune telling and more pagan beliefs. Louis’ sister is Mozelle Batiste Delacroix (Debbi Morgan) and we learn that she’s cursed. She is barren, has no children of her own and is a widower to 3 husbands. Things also take a turn when Elzora (Diahann Carroll), a local voodoo priestess who also tells fortunes, relays an impending tragedy to Roz and Mozelle. Things are also complicated when Louis is staying out long hours seeing ‘patients’. It all ends with some mismatched memories, dark magic and death.
That is where I want to leave my recap of the movie. The first thing that I should delve into here is why I’m including this into my horror movie research. This movie is a drama for sure. I would consider this movie though to also be adjunct to horror due to the fact that we’re getting things like voodoo, a feeling of dread that grows and how everything ends up is dark. I will say though, this doesn’t have the feel of the horror movie that many look for. It is really a family drama and I will acknowledge that.
From there though, we are getting some relative things here despite this movie being set in the past and being made almost 25 years ago. We are following a prominent black family. I’m assuming there is a bit of family money here, but Louis is a doctor. He is a good man and has a lovely family. He is a bit full of himself though. His mother of Gran Mere (Ethel Ayler) acknowledges this in the opening sequence at the party. Louis does have problems with drinking and he’s a womanizer. It was something more widely acceptable for the era the movie takes place. I don’t like it, but I get it.
Going along with this family idea, I want to delve into what the synopsis states about the women having power here. Roz runs this household. She can’t tell Louis what to do, but that’s not to say she is weak either. Mozelle is a strong woman who despite losing 3 husbands is able to take care of herself. Gran Mere is strong willed. There is also Elzora who might have great power in what she does with forces that many will ignore in a more modern world. Cisely is also interesting here. When Eve relays what she sees, she tells her that isn’t what she saw. Memories are something that aren’t the most reliable and this idea comes into play for the ending as well.
The last aspect of the story to explore would be this of the voodoo. It is interesting that Louis doesn’t believe which makes sense as he’s a doctor and a man of science. Mozelle doesn’t practice voodoo herself, but she will dabble a bit. We see a patient of Louis who tells him that his treatments are working. We know that she actually visited Mozelle who gave her something else. Personally, I don’t believe in religion or pagan beliefs like this. What I do believe though is that if you believe hard enough, it can have psychosomatic responses so I do enjoy this idea being explored here.
This movie doesn’t have the deepest story to it, but what it does have are deep characters. Smollett does an excellent job as this young girl. She is messing around in an adult world and takes on blame for things that in the end she shouldn’t. It would depend on the belief system. Being that she is young, she lacks a bit of respect at times that I liked for the character. Good is also a complicated character and her performance works. Whitfield and Morgan are tragic in different ways for the trauma they have to endure. I even like Jackson here. He brings a natural arrogance to the role. He isn’t a bad guy, but he’s doing some horrible things in my opinion. I did like cameos by Jake Smollett, Ayler, Carroll, Vondie Curtis-Hall, Roger Guenveur Smith and Carson. Along with the rest of the cast, they rounded this out for what was needed.
Really the last couple things would be the cinematography and the soundtrack. For the former, this movie is shot really well. We don’t get anything in the way of effects for the most part, but it also isn’t that type of movie. What I did like were the playing with dreams. Eve is gifted with the ability of sight like her namesake or her aunt. We get the colors flipped to be darker than it should so we can see images, but it doesn’t give them away either. The soundtrack also fit for what this movie needed in my opinion.
In conclusion here, I think this is a beautiful movie with a story that has darker elements. It is interesting that we’re hearing about events of the past from the point of view of a child that is harboring guilt. Like I’ve said though, the story isn’t the most complex but we are getting some deep characters that are interacting. I really like the look at the modern world with some having more pagan beliefs as well. I don’t think this movie is for everyone. It isn’t really horror, but it is adjunct for me thanks to some of these darker elements. I would say that this is a good movie and one that I will revisit again now that I know how things play out to pick up anything I may have missed with this first viewing.
My Rating: 8 out of 10