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Director: Natalie Erika James
Writer: Natalie Erika James and Christian White
Starring: Emily Mortimer, Robyn Nevin and Bella Heathcote
Now with this was a movie that I didn’t hear about until I saw it getting some buzz on social media. Some people that I really do respect in the horror community were speaking highly of it. It was interesting that I was going to watch another 2020 horror film for this week on my podcast, but when I saw this movie fit better with the 1950 movie I picked, I asked Jaime if she was interested and we gave this a viewing instead. The synopsis here is a daughter, mother and grandmother are haunted by a manifestation of dementia that consumes their family’s home.
We start this movie with what looks like Christmas lights. It shows us a bathtub overflowing and then to a naked old woman. It then shows us a figure in all black pop up in the background, but it is blurry.
The movie then takes us to Kay (Emily Mortimer) and Sam (Bella Heathcote) heading out to a house in a small town. They’re looking for Kay’s mother and Sam is her daughter. They break into the house and there’s no sign of her. They check around and eventually have to involve the police in a search of her in the woods.
Kay begins to have a nightmare of a cabin and of an old man inside of it. He is being consumed by mold where we see him pass away. We then learn later, this cabin was what was originally on this property the house now sits. The stain glass that is in the front door was also on the front door then and was preserved.
Then as if nothing happened, Edna (Robyn Nevin) shows back up. She is making tea that morning and Kay asks where she had been. Edna seems annoyed that she is asked, but it is ignored when Sam comes into the room to hug her. This then becomes a struggle of Kay wanting to help her mother, but her mother resisting. She doesn’t want to give up her house or her way of life. Sam offers an alternative and Kay struggles with doing what is best for her life as well as what would be best for her mother. There is also this entity that Edna is seeing. Is it real or is it something else?
That’s where I want to leave my recap as that gets you up to speed with what the movie is really about without going into spoilers. What I really dug about this movie though is the underlying allegory that it is trying to relay. I will admit that I did read an interview of the director/co-writer of this movie, Natalie Erika James, so I’m going to incorporate aspects that were relayed in my analysis. I did pick up on some of things, but there was more that I didn’t correlate that helped to deepen what I enjoy.
The first thing that I really liked with this movie is that we have three generations of women in this family. Edna is living alone since her husband passed away. She is dealing with Alzheimer’s and has to leave notes to remind her of the mundane tasks of daily life. She’s at a difficult age where she wants to continue her way of life, but she’s losing that ability.
Then we have Kay. She’s a busy woman that has her own life. She can’t ‘babysit’ her mother and she needs more intensive care. It is a difficult decision, but she’s looking at nursing homes for her mother. This causes her to butt heads with Sam, who is willing to take on the burden. She no longer wants to go to college and is currently working at a bar. Her mother wants what is best for her, but is doing that motherly thing where she is interjecting her thoughts on what her daughter should be doing with her life.
Without going into spoilers here, since I’ll do a spoiler section later, we have the entity that keeps popping up. I’m not going to lie, I thought what they did here was effective in having it be seen by us and not the characters in the story. I know not everyone is a fan of this, but it is creepy to me for sure. What I also like is they play with other dimensions a bit as well. There’s a closet where Edna believes it started. Sam goes into it and we see a mirror of the house that is in worse shape. It is covered in mold and it seems this world is bleeding into ours. What I like here though, Edna claimed earlier that the house seems too big now that her husband is gone. There might be some truth to this.
Since I’ve already moved into it, I thought the effects of this movie were well done. Everything was done practical for the most part. The allegory of the mold we are seeing was one I really dug and if there was CGI, it was used seamlessly in my opinion. The entity we see creeped me out as well. Influences are of Asian cinema and I know while watching this I said I had the vibe of like Ju-on or Ringu so that makes a lot of sense. I do need to give credit to the cinematography as well. It was shot very well and I enjoyed the use of mirrors. It plays in with the other world as an allegory as well.
Next I want to take this to the acting of the movie. This is really a cast of three with some support from others. Mortimer was really good as this middle generation that has her own life and is trying to do right by the woman that raised her. She is just a solid actress in general and I’m not sure I’ve seen in her a bad role. Nevin is really good as the old woman. I love how natural she plays this as someone who has Alzheimer’s. She is one person and then different in the next scene which is in line with what I’ve heard about this condition. Heathcote is interesting as well in her role. She does some investigation, but I also like that she’s not jaded by the world yet.
Now with that said, I really dug what this movie was doing. I will say that I had my expectations a little bit high as I heard how scary this was. I even braced Jaime for it. I did find that it had creepy parts, but it definitely wasn’t as scary as I was expecting. That is not to say I was disappointed or anything like that. I think there are some really good concepts and I dig the underlying allegory. The effects were good and I thought the acting was as well. The soundtrack fit for what was needed and the use of sounds from things in the movie did help make scenes even creepier in my opinion. Overall I would say this is movie is good. I will probably try to give this another viewing before the year ends to see if this is a contender for my final year end list.
My Rating: 8.5 out of 10
The truth of what we’re getting here is that Edna has dementia. This isn’t new as it is in the synopsis. What it is though the entity we’re seeing is a manifestation of her disease attacking her and trying to take over her body. I found this to be rather interesting as James was dealing with the grief of her grandmother who dealt with same type of ordeal and what decision needed to be made.
To take this even farther, I believe that the hallway that Sam goes down is a representation of going into the mind of Edna. This hallway and the other house is where she as missing when they got there. When Edna goes back in, she completely succumbs to the disease. She isn’t the same person that she was when she went in. I also like that there’s a bruise on her chest when was found earlier in the movie. It is spreading and she is stabbing herself later, pulling off skin. This is her trying to stop it, but finally giving in.
The last bit that made me tear up here is Kay and Sam finds their way back as well as the new Edna. They go to leave, Edna says Kay’s name. This causes her to stay, as her Great Grandfather passed away alone. Kay helps remove the skin and comes to terms with her new mother. She won’t let her die alone. Sam also joins them and we see that Kay has a mark on her back, signifying this ordeal will carry on in the next generation. It is an interesting movie dealing with grief and the struggles of someone changing due to dementia.