Starring: Olga Kurylenko , Javier Botet, Mitch Eakins
Directed by: Clive Tonge
Written by: Johnathan Frank
Running Time: 1 Hour and 39 Minutes
Reviewed by: Dan Oles
Unintentional hilarity is the enemy of drama and horror. It’s not always an enemy to entertainment. The balance is delicate between drama and melodrama and Mara tends to err on the side of enormous emotions, on-the-nose music cues, and by now conventional jump scares.
When it tries something new it tends to succeed very well though. The direction is moody and nearly realistic with gentle camera movements and locations that look just dreamlike enough to make you question the reality of what you’re seeing but not so staged they appear devoid of verisimilitude. There’s some sequences like a masterfully composed shot evoking sleep paralysis which does create the crushing, helpless sensation of the experience I recognized from my own sleep paralysis episodes. In fact the reality of awakening but being unable to move and barely able to breathe by itself might have been frightening enough to base a solid horror story around.
Unfortunately Mara goes for the tried and true but tired ‘demon’ storyline so popular nowadays. I won’t spoil if the situation is supernatural or psychological but the problem is that the meta-narrative is so rote you might not ultimately care. It’s one thing to keep toying with the concept of a demonic enemy versus everything being in the head of our disturbed protagonist, but it’s another to have the scares and concepts of the demon be so familiar you can practically point out the influences by name. There’s nothing new under the sun but you can hide the sources you borrow from better than this.
That said, even if the concept is typical, the execution is artful and looks truly cinematic. Expert lighting, nice bits of acting (although most characters just mutter darkly, gasp, or scream) and the aforementioned subtle camerawork makes the proceedings look perfectly comfortable on a big screen. The computer imagery is top notch and convincing so you might get some jolts out of the title villainess and her unsettling movements.
The problems are the tropes that come along for the ride: like a checklist of experiences apparently no contemporary horror film should be without. The sudden sighting of a monster followed by an inexplicable smashing of all the notes in the orchestra. Characters say weird and ominous things for no real reason. A lot of slow scenes follow the characters wandering around creepy places until a false or real shocking revelation suddenly breaks the tension, again with the immersion breaking crash of what sounds like a piano falling off a rooftop. Some scenes were so ridiculous it prompted snorting laughter instead of fright. I don’t care how crazy someone is: if you want a murder mystery to seem more like a mystery, don’t have an ordinary woman accused of killing her husband by apparently tying him into a pretzel.
Not everyone has seen every horror movie ever made, especially not every modern one, but if you’ve seen one modern horror film you’ve basically seen this one in many ways. What elevates Mara is the performances, the direction, the production, and there’s a decent pace.
Despite all the music stings there’s few surprises here, but it’s a pretty and competent stab at a popular genre.
Check out: Anti-Hero The Motion Comic Series
Episode 1 (Watch for Free!) : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qmmouuBlWTk&t=49s