My notes on the eerie melodrama.
Director Lawrie Brewster and writer Sarah Daly have been building their own cinematic universe up in the border country, though each of their films has a distinct, different feel even as they share a particular owl-headed spectre. After Lord of Tears and The Unkindness of Ravens, which use the owlman to incarnate contemporary demons and spend a lot of time out in the forests and the fields, this black and white picture harks back to classic Hollywood gothic melodrama in the spirit of Hitchcock or Lang and links the owlman to the villain of Swan Lake (which makes this the missing link between Michele Soavi’s Stagefright and Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan). Psychiatrist Finn Galloway (Jamie Scott Gordon) comes to an old dark house where former ballerina Elisa Grey (Alexandra Nicole Hulme) is crippled by psychological and physical issues and under the care of demanding taskmaster Lorena Velasco (Spanish horror icon Macarena Gomez), who comes close to being a shrieking harpy herself as a mix of sinister housekeeper and drill instructor (a familiar character type in girls’ comics about ballet) but may also be vampirishly exploiting the younger woman to make up for her own lost career.
Like all of Brewster-Daly’s films, it’s a genre exercise with a lot of frills – here, we explore a haunted house that is also a fractured psyche, and games of identity swap and human parasitism are played between explorations of typical who-did-what-to-whom mysteries. The monochrome look is daringly stark and Gomez – from Sexykiller, Holmes & Watson: Madrid Days, Witching and Bitching and Shrew’s Nest – goes for the throat in a full-throttle performance which sometimes tips into grandstanding but still works up a potent chill. Around the fringes of the central menage are a lot of tiny character bits – Nicholas Vince pops in as Uncle Edward – and plot-strands that do eventually get woven in, bu the main attraction is a slide into madness that eventually delivers a full-on scary dance sequence with oily creatures and the most savagely fearsome owl-thing yet.
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