Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
Anguish: Mothers and Possessed Daughters
father has been deployed to Middle East. At least he will be safe there from
the malevolent power apparently possessing his daughter. Tess’s young mother
Jessica will be the unfortunate one stuck dealing with her erratic behavior.
Unfortunately, the teen’s long history of emotional problems will delay a more
supernatural diagnosis until it is almost too late. There are indeed trying
time ahead in screenwriter-director Sonny Mallhi’s Anguish (trailer
opens this Friday in select theaters.
is easier for Jessica to deal with Tess when her husband is around to teach her
how to play guitar and skateboard. The teen is more than a little socially
awkward, but it is not her fault. All her life, her brain chemistry has worked
against her. She has responded positively to her latest dosage, so her parents
hope and pray she has turned a corner. However, things take an ominous turn for
the worse when Jessica relocates them to a sleepy burg in Illinois. It seems
the spirit of Lucinda, the teenager killed in the film’s prologue, might have
some kind of dark hold over her.
a horror film, Anguish is remarkably
grounded and stylistically Spartan. Clearly, Mallhi understands parents and
teens are often scarier to each other than anything that goes bump in the
night. Of course, Tess’s painful history and awkwardly reserved demeanor make
her especially vulnerable to possession. In a way, Anguish is not unlike The Babadook, but the difficult child is older and the beleaguered parent is younger.
Yet, instead of kicking around fairy tales tropes, Mallhi taps into the primal
fears and puritan anxieties that make classic supernatural horror so
moody and gritty is all very fine as an aesthetic choice, but it does not give the
cast the sort of overblown effects and an exploitative excesses they could hide
behind. Fortunately, they are all quite down-to-earth and credible as average,
overwhelmed people, especially Annika Marks, whose work as Jessica is
uncompromisingly honest. Granted, we sometimes want to shake Ryan Simpkins’ Tess
by the shoulders, but that is sort of the whole point. Ryan O’Nan’s Father
Myers is also refreshingly sympathetic and decent, even though Mallhi
ultimately takes the film in a different direction than the classic Blattyesque
priest-versus-evil spirit climax.
is a very good horror film that is on par with
the unjustly under-appreciated The Diabolical and superior to the over-hyped Babadook. Despite some vaguely New Age elements, Mallhi has a good
sense of what everyday life is like for God-fearing, military-serving working
class people. He also delivers some well-timed jolts in the early going and
some serious dread during the third act. Highly recommended for horror fans, Anguish opens tomorrow (12/18) in Los
Angeles, at the Arena Cinema and also launches on VOD platforms.
Labels: Horror Movies