The year is 1973. But to the people of Audrey Earnshaw’s town, it’s still 1873: the year a group of families settled in an isolated settlement in North America, separating from the Church of Ireland. There is no trace of modernism in this town, no direct contact to the outside, nothing. Even less so for Audrey (Jessica Reynolds), who has been kept a secret by her mother Agatha (Catherine Walker), hidden from the rest of the town since her birth 17 years prior.
Around the same time of Audrey’s birth, the town suffered what they call “the eclipse,” which caused a sickness that affected the soil, livestock, and even caused the death of townsfolk. Agatha Earnshaw’s farm is the only one for miles that has remained unaffected by the eclipse, and so everyone else accuses her of heresy. Agatha rides into town, but she is the last person the townsfolk want to see. In seeing the woman hoarding her abundance, Colm (Jared Abrahamson) attacks Agatha. Colm’s father Seamus (Sean McGinley), the town preacher, is the one to break up the argument, but it’s too late; Audrey has already seen how the townsfolk treat her mother. Stubborn, determined, and enraged, Audrey vows to take revenge.
Chaos ensues, and there is no stopping it. The town is overcome by something “unnatural”–to blame is a mysterious “creature” whose sole existence is a myth. Only then does Agatha realize what has happened, and the consequences that will undoubtedly come with it. And while Agatha tries to fan the flames of the rumors that begin to spread, Audrey does the exact opposite.
Agatha frequently warns Audrey about “villains,” and that she must be careful. And at first, it seems Agatha is right. But slowly, the label of ‘villain’ is lost, and the audience is left to decide for themselves who the true villain is. This actually works in the film’s favor; it keeps you on your toes and changes your opinions of the characters in its short 93 minutes. You never know exactly what will happen next, and once you think you have an idea of it, you’re proved wrong every time, and the film is better for it.
It is a common thing among horror films is to have a prologue of sorts, introducing the story in a colonial era–at the root of the ‘curse.’ This film is unique in that the entire film feels like that prologue, but the actual film never gives you a recap sheet going in. It also has a few popular tropes–religious characters, a strange mother-daughter dynamic, a curse…but instead of falling into the trap of mediocrity through this, it implements them into the plot, creating a story that is a unique take on something you think you’ve seen before. But you haven’t. There is no other film that matches its creepy, its story, or its impact.
The direction unfortunately falters a bit towards the end, as tensions continue to rise but questions remain unanswered. It has an ending fitting for the mysterious town it takes place in, but lacks any real closure. And perhaps that is the point: maybe something like this can’t–or shouldn’t–be fully explained. But as writer/director Thomas Robert Lee’s sophomore feature, The Curse of Audrey Earnshaw serves its purpose as a bone-chilling horror with enough twists to put a spin on the classic setting it lives in, and keep viewers engaged.
The Curse of Audrey Earnshaw will screen in limited theaters on October 2, and become available on VOD and Digital October 6.
REVIEW: ‘The Curse of Audrey Earnshaw’ is a Cursed, Entertaining Coming-of-Age with a Twist