Black magic has been conjured within a secluded village and its consequences are dire for anyone, and everyone, who crosses its path. Be prepared for its devastation, through many forms, as “The Curse of Audrey Earnshaw” made its world premiere at Fantasia’s Internal Film Festival, online.
Set yourselves in 1973. However, don’t expect to see the 70s as you think you know them. Irish settlers having fled to the United States over 100 years ago have secluded themselves in their own village. Away from the world wars and ignoring advancing technology, the religious villagers have seemingly remained in similar living conditions as their ancestors. Agatha Earnshaw (Catherine Walker; “A Dark Song”) lives alone with her daughter Audrey (Jessica Reynolds) who was born in secrecy. To nobody’s knowledge, Audrey has been brought up in a world of spells and magic. One unfortunate day, however, a villager spots Audrey, learning of her existence, and speaks to the head of the community. Since she was spotted, horrible events have been occurring to members, crops and animals of the village. As her abilities seem to grow, the village’s suspicions begin tightening around Agatha and Audrey’s throats.
Writer/director Thomas Robert Lee dives into a heavy atmosphere of a setback village of Irish ancestors within the United States, set in the 1970s, but living and feeling like they are 100 years earlier. Confusing? A little, and I didn’t find the sense in choosing to have this complex context rather than deciding to have the setting take place specifically in the 1800s. Regardless, this changes nothing to the dreadgul mood established by Lee’s directing. From the very first scene, we are plunged into gorgeous, artistic cinematography. From the slow-moving, beautiful camera shots, to the harsh, sober tones of light, to a soft, yet deep and dark score from Bryan Buss and Thilo Schaller, the film’s tone takes a hold of you with a vice-like grip right from the start.
The storyline is interesting enough to keep us hooked, yet could have gotten a lot darker. So much potential in Audrey’s powers is left on the table rather than horrifying the audience in creative, sinister ways. “The Curse of Audrey Earnshaw” is more of a dramatic horror film than a flat out horror movie per se, but it does enclose some of the genre’s aspects to it. The ambience resembles and feels like an alleviated version of 2015’s “The Witch” while incorporating a lightened “Carrie-esque” relationship between Agatha and her daughter. In other words, it feels like the film has a soul of its own, while reincarnating slightly faded versions of other movies.
As casting directors, Maureen Hughes and Sarah Jones did a fantastic job at recruiting some experienced talent fit for the film’s dramatic aspect. Catherine Walker is accompanied by a solid cast consisting of Hannah Emily Anderson (Jigsaw), Sean McGinley (Braveheart), Don McKellar (eXistenZ) and Jared Abrahamson. You can’t go wrong with these actors in terms of credibility and heartfelt emotion. Jessica Reynolds, who interprets Audrey Earnshaw, is especially impressive in her first role in a feature film. She possesses and harnesses a certain “sweet and spicy” flavor to her performance: seemingly very docile and dominated by her controlling mother at first, only to unleash a cold, ferocious side to her afterwards.
If you’re looking to be scared and creeped out, you might wanna look for another film. This dramatic horror is perfect for those yearning for a dark tale relying heavily on a somber atmosphere, interwoven with secrecy, suspicion and witchcraft. If you get into this mindset, you’ll agree that “The Curse of Audrey Earnshaw” merits a score of 7/10.
Article written by SIMON ROTHER