(director/writer: Amelia Moses; cinematographer: René Arseneau; editor: Mattias Graham; music: Dominic Caterina; cast: Lee Marshall (Rowan), Aris Tyros (Brendan), Lauren Beatty (Emily); Runtime: 79; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Mariel Sharp/Amelia Moses/Lee Marshall; Epic Pictures; 2020-Canada)

“Feels more like a nightmare than a horror story.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The low-budget debut indie feature of Amelia Moses is about an introverted woman, with a history of self-harm, Rowan (Lee Marshall), who is the third wheel on an extroverted couple’s weekend winter trip to an isolated cabin in the woods. Rowan becomes almost convinced that her popular rich friend Emily (Lauren Beatty) is consuming her blood because of waking up after a night of drinking to find cuts and bruises on her arms. Emily’s aloof boyfriend Brendan (Aris Tyros), a peacemaker between the girls, is not pleased with the presence of Rowan, as the holiday thriller finds its grim way to a self-discovery tale played out in the dark.

With the cabin having distorted images, a sense of dream-like evil prevails. Adding to the haunting feel is the unsettling score by Dominic Caterina. Also the claustrophobic setting and the chilly photography by René Arseneau.

It’s hard to make out what’s going on exactly since the back stories of the trio are not completely told.

Rowan and Emily seem like best of friends. In one shot, Emily crawls into bed with Rowan. But at other times they seem at odds with each other. Trying to understand the dynamics of this relationship was distracting and not very rewarding.

The strong visuals are contrasted by the weak script, as not enough is ever learned about the characters so we can adequately follow the logic of the story. The many striking images (such as a d
ead hare hanging from a tree or the dreamlike images of Emily dripping blood on her face) are well-conceived horror images. But if all you want is to feel squirmy instead of scared, and find yourself pleased with a plot that only asks if you can trust so-called friends when you question their strange actions–then you are accepting of a loopy slow-burn psychological film, one that feels more like a nightmare than a horror story.

It was part of this year’s Fantasia Film Festival.

REVIEWED ON 9/28/2020  GRADE: C+