The Curse of Audrey Earnshaw

GATE 67 FILMS (2020)

 

Director: Thomas Robert Lee

 

Starring: Catherine Walker, Jared Abrahamson, Hannah Emily Anderson, Geraldine O'Rawe, Don McKellar, Sean McGinley, Jessica Reynolds

We’re in spooky season now – it’s October, the leaves are falling, the air has that wonderful autumnal chill to it and horror movies are dropping thick and fast. The Curse of Audrey Earnshaw, the feature debut from Thomas Robert Lee, fits the mood and tone of the season perfectly – it’s muted, meticulous and has a distinct cold feel to it throughout. Reminiscent of Robert Eggers' The Witch, the movie tells the story of a Protestant village besieged by a plague of bad luck (to put it lightly...) that they firmly believe has been conjured by the mysterious Earnshaw family.

Set in 1973, the village is suffering from impotent lands and a critical lack of food and resources, everyone is feeling the intense stress – everyone except Agatha Earnshaw (Walker) and her reclusive daughter Audrey (Reynolds). The Earnshaw farm is the only land capable of growing crops and maintaining livestock – something the locals believe isn’t entirely natural. However, none have ever seen Audrey as she is kept hidden by her domineering mother for fear of retribution for past events and it’s the mother-daughter narrative that takes centre stage in The Curse of Audrey Earnshaw alongside the struggles of husband and wife Colm and Bridget (Abrahamson and Anderson respectively) bereaved at the recent loss of their infant son. Audrey herself was born on the night that the locals refer to as the “eclipse” – the night where the town’s troubles began and Agatha is believed to be responsible due to perceived witchcraft. As Agatha and Audrey, the performances of both Walker and Reynolds (especially) are extremely strong alongside a solid supporting cast (Jared Abrahamson especially stood out) and help push what is a slow-moving narrative along. Reynolds is able to portray innocence, mystery, anger and an air of seductiveness successfully as Audrey begins to slowly come into her own and embrace the...abilities bestowed upon her at birth. If slower, atmospheric horror isn’t your bag, chances are you’ll struggle with this. That said, there are some disturbing images and sequences throughout (this is a gorier, more violent affair than The Witch, for example) that will remain with you after viewing especially surrounding Colm and Bridget’s story – within this subplot are vague messages surrounding the ownership and governance of one’s body which I found interesting. The story itself – split into titled chapters - has varying facets to it, however, not all are substantially developed or fleshed out and the movie as a whole leaves some burning questions unresolved and has an air of ambiguity to it that wasn’t wholly satisfying.

 

The Curse of Audrey Earnshaw is a quietly beautiful movie to look at and carries an air of threat for the majority of its brisk runtime without ever verging into pure terror – but it is consistently atmospheric. Strong performances and a handful of starkly chilling sequences ensure The Curse of Audrey Earnshaw is a restrained yet intriguing horror-drama from start to finish but one that never threatens to become something truly special.

October 5th 2020

© 2016 Matt Hudson / What I Watched Tonight / Essex

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