Vancouver International Film Festival runs from September 28 – October 13, 2017. Screening films from more than 70 countries on nine screens, VIFF’s program includes the pick of the world’s top film fests and many undiscovered gems.
Overview: A trauma survivor finds help through a travelling cult. Anka Film; 2017; Not Rated; 82 minutes.
Big Fan: 2015’s Baskin came out of Turkey like a bat out of hell, winning horror fans over with its outlandish gore and unhinged story. I loved it, and it became one of my most-talked about movies that year, so I was doubly excited when I saw the director Can Evrenol’s new film Housewife screening as part of VIFF’s Altered States program. This is a filmmaker who works with new ideas and shows an obvious fandom for the horror genre.
Housewife started strong if a little silly with a melodramatic fairytale event. Two sisters are playing in their room, sequestered there as their mom deals with “the visitors” and prays to a mysteriously eerie painting on the wall. The eldest begins to menstruate and, shocked by the blood, calls for her mother who expresses extreme distress at the news. She then murders the girl, is subsequently murdered herself, and little Holly is left as the severely traumatized survivor, destined to be afraid of toilets the rest of her life.
For the most part, Holly has turned out alright. She’s married to a successful author and lives at home, between caring for it and working on her hobbies she seems fairly well-adjusted. Like any relationship there are problems—theirs in the baby-making realm and classic lack of communication. When an old threesome flame appears at their door, their fragile balance is completely overturned. V is a “family member” of ULM—an obvious cult that calls itself “Umbrella of Love and Mind” and focuses on “dream surfing”, a kind of bastardization of astral projection and lucid dreaming. After some shocking dreams and some pressing, Holly agrees to go to the seminar where she finds out she has been chosen as a soulmate and begins her healing initiation into the family.
This is where things lose their footing and never, ever regain it. While cults offer some of the greatest fodder for impacting psychological horror, ULM ends up being a mess that plays around with time loops, symbolism and the apocalypse without ever really doing well at any of them. It becomes so difficult to keep up with what’s happening that the audience is forced to throw their hands in the air and either ride it to the end or abandon it altogether.
So often, the worst case scenario suggests “doubly excited” leads to “doubly disappointed”. Housewife is no exception to this. First things first—this movie should have never been in English. This only adds to the worst truth: Housewife boasts some of the most appalling acting I’ve sat through in a theatre setting. This isn’t just the kind that gives you a laughing pause. It’s the kind that has you turning to your neighbours just to make sure you’re all watching the same thing go down. It’s the kind of that has the audience yelling and laughing at the screen or outright walking out. By the end, nobody cared about what transpired, nor could they summarize what had taken place. Horrifying reveals lost their punch because of weak delivery. The outstanding gore was wasted by those who enacted it. But I’ll still be in line for Evrenol’s next film, and the next one after that, hoping he once again leans more toward performance and style over shock value.
Overall: Housewife is not all bad. There are nods to Evrenol’s strengths in Baskin: powerful use of colour and light, and a sense of the fantastic and deranged is well-cultivated. There are some wildly gory scenes that payoff so well but they have little to do with the plot and come much too late. The cast has already assured the film sunk. There was no choice but to laugh at what transpired which, much like life, is the only saving grace some of the time.
Featured Image: Anka Film