[Fantasia 2020] “Sanzaru” review

When you’re not in your own home, unusual sounds and strange behaviors may make you feel even more uneasy. Welcome to the tale of a nurse who has bitten down on much more than she can chew in Xia Magnus’ first written and directed feature film “Sanzaru”, making its international premiere at Fantasia Festival’s online edition.

Evelyn (Aina Dumlao) is a nurse who has gone over to take care of Dena Regan (Jayne Taini) directly at her home; an elderly woman suffering of dementia. Staying at her home with her is her nephew who’s been having numerous problems at school. The teenager is accused by Dena of stealing her belongings, and as the dementia symptoms manifest themselves, Evelyn’s days are more and more taxing, especially since she’s been hearing some odd sounds coming from the house’s intercom system. The pet bird is also displaying some erratic behavior. It becomes inevitable to see that a presence has imposed itself onto the home.

Xia Magnus brings forth a touching tale of a nurse who seems to be the only person who still truly cares about an elderly woman, crumbling down into dementia. It is an interesting storyline that delves much deeper than a typical “haunted house” subgenre, adding some layers of character complexity. However, the first hour of the 87-minute film seems to have the same minor paranormal events occur over and over rather than innovating with new scares. While some scenes are visually unsettling (and have nothing to do with the paranormal presence), they are too few and repetitive. Then, when we finally do obtain a visual contact with the spirit, it certainly is an oddly though-out idea, without spoiling anything.

The cast is very credible, each for their own character. You’ll rapidly get attached to the main character, portrayed by Aina Dumlao, who shows some sensibility and dignity to the character of Dena Regan, whose kids seem to have abandoned her (especially her daughter). You’ll even debate with yourself, back and forth, on your opinion you make of Dena’s son, Clem (Justin Arnold) as his broken down character’s backstory unfolds before your eyes.

“Sanzaru” is a carefully woven drama that gets intertwined with the presence of an odd-looking and strangely behaving specter. You definitely won’t be terrified out of your wits nor will the film be an essential landmark in the world of horror, but you should nonetheless give it a watch as it receives the score of 6/10.

Article written by SIMON ROTHER

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