THE CURSE OF AUDREY EARNSHAW (2020)
Directed by Thomas Robert Lee
Written by Thomas Robert Lee
Starring Jessica Reynolds, Catherine Walker, Hannah Emily Anderson, Jared Abrahamson, Sean McGinley, Don McKellar, Geraldine O’Rawe, Anna Cummer, David LeReaney, Tom Carey, Alexis McKenna, Barb Mitchell, Lorette Clow, Geordie Cheeseman, Shawna Pliva McGill
Reminiscent of THE VVITCH, THE CURSE OF AUDREY EARNSHAW offers up an extremely authentic and good looking glimpse at a community cursed by a plague and a witch that is blamed to be the cause of it all.
Agatha Earnshaw (Catherine Walker) lives on the outskirts of a dying religious community. She keeps to herself and tries to keep her distance from the superstitious folk of the town, even so much that she has kept the existence of her daughter Audrey (Jessica Reynolds) a secret from them. As Audrey grows older, she not only develops powerful skills taught to her by her witch mother, but also grows weary of staying hidden. When one of the townsfolk catches a glimpse of Audrey, it sets off a series of events that threaten the fragile world Agatha has built to keep her daughter safe. But Audrey doesn’t want to be protected. She wants the world to know and fear her power.
THE CURSE OF AUDREY EARNSHAW looks like THE VVITCH and feels like a period piece version of CARRIE (no pun intended). Everything from the costuming, the desolate and simple landscape, and the language spoken in the religious Irish community feels authentic and lived in. The added attention to detail give this film a feel of being historically accurate, even though, to my knowledge, it is fiction. The film goes to great lengths to highlight the simple and poverty ridden lifestyle of the desperate people persecuting the Earnshaws for being different. And while they end up doing some heinous acts, it is made to be a somewhat understandable reaction given their dedication to their religion and their impoverished state. While it turns out Audrey is not the purest of heart, the people are not without sin themselves, so filmmaker Thomas Robert Lee plays out a dramatic tale where there really are no virtuous winners. This is a tragedy where everyone comes out with bruises and wounds, just some more than others.
While there is some spooky imagery throughout THE CURSE OF AUDREY EARNSHAW, it’s unfortunate that it’s not particularly scary. There are some twisted versions of religious iconography and some of the actions depicted are downright depraved and disturbing, but I kind of wish this film would have gone the extra mile and really gone for some shock. Instead, everything seems to be doled out with a conservative hand, offering up high drama but low chills. This is sadly the case right up to the shock ending, which I wish pushed the limits a bit more. I also feel that the inciting moment of all of Audrey’s rage is a bit misplaced and overwrought. Her wrath just doesn’t match the act committed in the early moments of the film, though it might have been more of an offense at the time and shows how misguided Audrey truly is.
That said, this is an extremely finely acted film and the characters really do feel rounded out. The atmosphere and overall tone of THE CURSE OF AUDREY EARNSHAW is top tier. This is a great looking film made by talented people. It deals with the subject matter of religion versus witchcraft with a mature and steady hand. I just wish it were scarier.