Cinema/TV, Film Notes

FrightFest review – Mastemah

My notes on Mastemah

A beautifully-made, snake-swallowing-itself horror picture.  Every moment is crafted and strange and pregnant with terror, but the whole thing evaporates as it unreels.  It’s a wild ride, but unsatisfying with it – though there’s a great deal to admire.

Psychiatrist Louise (Camille Razat) is traumatised by the death of an intern (Roberto Calvet) just after she’s demonstrated her hypnotic abilities on him – while she’s being congratulated, he defenestrates himself and plunges to his doom in an elegant bent-in-the-middle U shape.  Evading her mentor De Maistre (Tibo Vandenborre) – on-the-nose character names abound – and after an unspecified dust-up with her own therapist, she takes a gig which involves moving into the creepy old house where a previous practitioner resided.  It’s full of picked specimens and unnerving bric-a-brac and has treacherous power which keeps cutting off at bad moments and yet being ok whenever a sceptical handyman is called.  Also, there’s a cobweb-and-slime-like growth above the door, which recurs throughout.  After getting to know her duller patients, Louise is rattled when the vulpine, threatening Théo Liblis (Olivier Barthélémy) barges into the house and insists he hypnotise her to dispel violent dreams which have wrecked his sleep and half-convinced him he’s some sort of monster.

Against her better instincts, which seldom manifest, Louise takes on his obviously dangerous patient – and, as expected, things just get worse.  People around her go mad or die, when she takes some Latin Liblis has muttered in a session to a priest (Féodor Arkine) she gets apocalyptic demonology thrown into the mix, and people keep telling her she’s urged them to do terrible things in sessions she can’t remember.  Not all of these people exist outside the heroine’s head, but then again evidence keeps piling up that maybe they do – all the way to a homevideo clip embedded in the end credits.  Razat is impressive as the cracking-up shrink, an imperilled heroine who may also be the portal through which evil (Mastemah) invades the world, and everyone else is appropriately intense in deliberately one-note portrayals that suggest the doctor stereotypes and mentally boxes up everyone she meets, treating them only as reflections of her own ills.  It may be sillier than it is profound, but it rumbles on ominously, manages some fragmentary scares and offers a distinctive glossy gloom plus some spectacular French countryside.

Directed by Didier D. Daarwin, who co-wrote the script with Johanne Rigolout from an idea by producer Thierry Aflalou.



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