SXSW REVIEW: ‘Aberrance’ is a Dark, Highly Stylish Thriller That Fails to Land a Coherent Story

sxsw aberrance
Credit: Raven Banner

A brisk 76-minute run time and a director looking to show the world their style are front and center in ‘Aberrance.’ While it’s not breaking down any unique barriers with it’s story of a couple losing their minds in the woods, it is elevating what is potentially possible for low-budget cinema when the director has complete visual control.

Erkhmee (Erkhembayar Ganbat) and Selenge (Selenge Chadraabal), who retreat to an isolated house in the wilderness with one nosy neighbor who cannot help but pry. The two are set-up to be either a couple with serious issues (Hello, The Shining) or that he may beholding her captive. One thing is truthful, she’s being forced pills against her will for “her own good”.

While they came here to be alone, their nosy neighbor can’t leave well enough alone and finds himself drawn into their story.  He peaks in windows, he listens to conversations and eventually finds himself at a dinner confronting Erkhmee about the alledge abuse. There is denial. There is shame. But the obsession to find out what’s really going on continues to unravel.

Most of the first act is spent playing with the audience whether or not she is being captured or she is severely ill and he’s trying his best to help her. To make matters worse, it appears that the house they are staying in my have some supernatural curse that is toying with Selenge’s mental state. 

While the story spins and twists all over the places, the strong cast of four actors keeps things as grounded as possible. And as the film focuses on confusing the audience along the way have a cast this strong is a major win.

For my money, the film works best when it’s playing in the abstract even if that doesn’t match the films plot desires. We’re treated to frames dripping in blood red, stark contract, camera tricks that harken back to Sam Raimi and the Coen brothers style. It’s quite fun when it’s deciding to have fun. The problem is the film more often than not takes itself far too serious.

There is no doubt that director Baatar Batsukh is incredibly creative visual storyteller (also the cinematographer here) but all the style can’t help a very rough screenplay. It feels he wants to make both a Hitchcockian thriller and an Aronofsky film, so much so that the film is dedicated to filmmaker, Darren Aronofsky. It’s a weird and laughable moment following the incredibly sloppy final act of the film. 

As far as debut film go, there are certainly alot worse. I think most audiences will be scratching there heads as the film twists and turns it’s way through the final 10 minutes. But with such a short running time and so much style alongside strong performances there is definitely more to like than dislike. Here’s hoping that Batsukh finds a better screenplay for this second go around!

sxsw aberrance
SXSW REVIEW: ‘Aberrance’ is a Dark, Highly Stylish Thriller That Fails to Land a Coherent Story