Two very worthy genre gems from the world of indie horror

NOVEMBER 10 — This has turned out to be a very healthy year for quality horror and genre flicks. From worthy mainstream hits like A Quiet Place and Hereditary to more below-the-radar wonders like Mandy, Revenge, The Endless, Sebelum Iblis Menjemput, Mohawk, Pyewacket and Netflix hits like The Night Comes for Us, Apostle, Veronica and the series The Haunting of Hill House, all manner of good scares and thrills have made their way through our consciousness courtesy of these films.

But just because we have less than two months before the year ends doesn’t mean that more good stuff can’t be found. The promising-looking Overlord is opening in Malaysian cinemas this week, and of course I can’t wait to see that one ASAP, but there are also plenty of delights waiting to be discovered on the various streaming and VOD platforms out there, and this week I’d like to share with you two very worthy ones I’ve stumbled upon online.

Housewife

If you’ve been following my column here, then you’d probably have noticed (and hopefully still remember) my more than glowing recommendation of a Turkish horror film called Baskin.

I loved it so much that it even bagged the number 1 spot on my favourite horror films of 2016 list. Two years later, director Can Evrenol is back with his follow-up, still a Turkish film starring Turkish actors, but wholly in English, and it’s called Housewife.

It’s about a housewife named Holly who suffered a major trauma when she witnessed her mother murder her father and older sister when she was just a little girl.

The whole thing becomes wondrously bonkers once a mysterious organisation called Umbrella of Love and Mind comes into town and Holly attends its seminar, which involves astral projection, and it becomes clear that there’s more to her memories (and the Umbrella) than meets the eye.

This one played genre festivals back in 2017 but only received US distribution this year, but I need to highlight this fact because some of the plot here resembles Hereditary, which only made its festival debut in early 2018, so any similarities are therefore merely coincidental.

Housewife’s trump card, however, is in the fact that it takes the whole astral projection thing and really runs with it, which means that, just like in Baskin, there’s a surplus of unforgettable nightmarish imagery on display here, a lot of which you won’t have seen before, no matter how many horror flicks you have watched in your lifetime.

In fact, when it comes to awesome, mind-bending, psychedelic imagery, it even wins the battle against the much-lauded Mandy, hands down. Now already armed with two horror visual wonders, this Can Evrenol guy is really one to watch, closely.

Welcome to Mercy

Talking about things you haven’t seen before, Welcome to Mercy, a religious horror thriller set in Latvia but in the English language, for most of its running time will feel like many other demonic possession movies you’ve seen before.

It’s about a young mother named Madeline who returns to Latvia at the urging of her sick father, with her young daughter Willow in tow. Once there, she experiences what looks like a combination of a demonic possession and stigmata, almost killing her child in the process.

She’s then sent to a convent called Mercy to help her come to grips with the experience, despite her being an atheist. A short prologue and some short bursts of memories/dreams throughout the film lets the audience know that there’s some mysterious backstory to all of this during Madeline’s childhood, and the film slowly reveals all this as it moves along telling its story.

Audiences more used to the snappy pace of modern horror movies will most likely be turned off by this film’s very deliberate pace, but, like some of M. Night Shyamalan’s best movies, director Tommy Bertelsen and actress-writer Kristen Ruhlin have got a superb revelation up their sleeves, one that even a horror nut like me has not seen before.

In fact, the closest any film (that I’ve seen) has come to this film’s “twist” is Ava’s Possessions, and it’s not that close really.

Once that twist hits you, it’s all worth it — the deliberate pace, the director’s visual choices during certain sequences, the dogged withholding of information; everything makes sense, and everything falls into place beautifully, making this little film one hell of a pleasant surprise.

People often say that everything old is new again, but this film gives new meaning to that phrase, in a good way, of course.

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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