M.L. Miller here! Welcome horror fans to my Annual countdown of the Best of the Best in Horror! Running every day through October, this list will culminate with the best horror film of the year announced on October 31st. Some of these films can be found in theaters—others have unfortunately only seen the light of day On Demand, DVD, BluRay, or digital download. I’ve tried to indicate in the reviews how you can watch and enjoy these films yourselves. I’ll also provide a “Worth Noting” secondary film suggestion in a separate post. These are films that stood out or just missed being on the list by a skosh—a little extra for those who can’t get enough horror.
How did I compile this list? I simply looked through films released between October 1st 2018 and September 30, 2019 and worked and reworked the list until I had the magic number, 31. This countdown is not for the elitists or festival goers, so if the film hasn’t been released to the masses, it won’t be on the list. Also anything released this October will most likely be on next year’s list—so sorry, no films like DOCTOR SLEEP or ZOMBIELAND 2 just yet.
I hope you’ll join me daily and don’t forget to like and share my picks with your pals across the web on your own personal social media. Chime in after the review and let me know what you think of the film, how on the nose or mind-numbingly wrong I am, or most importantly, come up with your own darn list…let’s go!
If you didn’t like THE VVITCH, it’s pretty much certain that you won’t like HAGAZUSSA. But if you got into the folksy horror and authentic locale of that film, HAGAZUSSA might be something up your alley. It’s an arthouse film and patient as hell, but HAGAZUSSA is more of a film to experience rather than simply watch for breezy entertainment. The sights and sounds of the film are astounding, telling a simple story of revenge and regret. Released on April 19, 2019, here’s my review of HAGAZUSSA! Available on BluRay/DVD, On Demand, SHUDDER, and digital download from Doppelganger Releasing!
aka HAGAZUSSA: A HEATHEN’S CURSE
Directed by Lukas Feigelfeld
Written by Lukas Feigelfeld
Starring Haymon Maria Buttinger, Aleksandra Cwen, Claudia Martini, Celina Peter, Tanja Petrovsky
Filmed in the forests and plainlands of Austria and Germany, HAGAZUSSA is a transfixing experience into the stuff of pure dread. It’s a film that may be too dark for some to stomach but exudes a morbid beauty that will definitely move you.
Whittling down the narrative to a bare minimum, HAGAZUSSA is a simple tale of an outcast woman simply trying to live with her young child in a harsh winter during the 1400’s. Told in four parts, the film follows this woman through her life and then her daughters as pain and misery seems to be the one thing passed down through the generations for this unfortunate family. Once the old woman becomes ill, she begins to act erratically, frightening the young child Albrun and haunting her long after her mother’s death and into her adult years. The story follows Albrun into adulthood where she has contacted a local village selling the milk from her goats in order to provide for her own young daughter. But when a village girl befriends Albrun after a group of kids torment her for being a witch, she seems to take joy for the first time with the new contact. This contact proves to be not so joyous, leaving Albrun a decimated woman on a road with utter despair as its destination.
This is not a film for everyone. If you enjoyed THE VVITCH, but felt that the pacing on that film was way too fast for you, this might be something right up your alley. The film is told in four or five beats with long droning music and slow movements interconnecting those beats, but all in all, this is storytelling at its barest. Still, the beats of the story are so loud and leave such an impact that it makes the long lulls in between worthwhile moments to let these horrific events resonate and for the viewer to come to grips with the awful things that are occurring.
This is a film about the unbelievable burden of motherhood—a topic as relevant now as it was back in the 1400’s. While the term “witch” is used, there really is no real sorcery at work here. Life and the unfortunate hand of fate are the real monsters in this tale. What occurs in this film chilled me to the core. Much of the feels I got from this film relies on the fearless performance by actress Aleksandra Cwen who plays the adult Albrun. While much of this film is without dialog, she conveys every ounce of tragedy and horror with her facial expressions, hypnotic gait, and body language. This film is a one woman show and Cwen bears the weight expertly.
The soundtrack to HAGAZUSSA is something I must own. Droning, resonant, and constant—the music and chorus that accompany Albrun on this harrowing journey become a character themselves. This is an experience rather than a film—art house horror at its best. Reminiscent in tone to last year’s THE EYES OF MY MOTHER, HAGAZUSSA is a truly morbid tale of the worst life has to offer and the struggle to still survive it. This will not be the witch’s brew for some who like their horror boppy and fun. But if you are looking for a film that will transport you into a land of bitter chills, soul-searing horrors, and the depths of one’s soul, this moody and morose monster of a film will definitely put a spell on you.
THE COUNTDOWN SO FAR…
#20 – HAGAZUSSA
M. L. Miller is a wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of MLMILLERWRITES.COM. Follow @Mark_L_Miller.
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