New in select theaters!

ENYS MEN (2022)

Directed/written by Mark Jenkin.
Starring Mary Woodvine, Edward Rowe, Flo Crowe, John Woodvine, Joe Gray

A volunteer (Mary Woodvine) studies a rare flower on a secluded island while her grip on reality seems to be slipping away.

Simple plot. Could be fun. But ENYS MEN, which translates to “stone island,” instead is another film following the trend of analog horror that seems to have taken the horror critical world by storm this year with SKINAMARINK and THE OUTWATERS, but also causing a massive level of frustration in fans who feel like they haven’t watched the same movie as the critics did. Like those other two movies, expect long silent takes on nature, very little by way of plot or character development, large attention to sound or lack thereof, and a rather intimate look at the feelings of dread, loneliness, otherness, and that sheer terror one only experiences alone in the middle of the night enveloped by darkness. Like SKINAMARINK and THE OUTWATERS, ENYS MEN does capture those feelings well. You understand the banality of the volunteer’s job as she repeats the same routine over and over again in the first thirty minutes. It digs the point in hip deep that this woman is dedicated to her job, but definitely not happy. As her mind begins to wander of what seems to be fantasies of having an affair with the boatman who brings her supplies or memories of what seems to be her daughter, you get a sense of who she is as a character, even though the film never bothers to name her. If ENYS MEN does something right, it gets these feelings right and communicates it successfully to the audience. When she does experience odd hallucinogenic periods, they also feel genuine and give off an overall sense of unease. Feeling-wise, this one is successful, which in many ways, is the same thing SKINAMARINK and THE OUTWATERS did. This method of storytelling is the ultimate in show/don’t tell storytelling and I like it for that aspect alone.

With that out of the way, ENYS MEN is dull as a sack of dirt. Literally, nothing happens. The volunteer wakes up, leaves her home, goes up a hill, checks to see if the lichens of the area are attaching themselves to a flower on the top of a hill, throws a rock into a deep hole, gazes at the ocean, looks at a big rock, and then returns to her little home to write “No change.” in her notebook. Then she reads a book and goes to bed. That series of events is repeated almost twenty times in the movie. Sure, occasionally she believes she sees her daughter, or the boatman, or a priest, or a group of women singing, or some burly miners who I guess might have had something to do with the history of the island, but basically, the bulk of this movie is monotony. It communicates monotony well. Too well. Making getting to the end an utter chore. Need some sleep? ENYS MEN works better than a few shots of whiskey and a bottle of NiQuil.

And while this one is labeled as a horror movie, ENYS MEN is more like a dream about going to work that you can’t wake up from. There might be a one or two minutes of moody and unsettling images. It’s kind of like body horror because the parasite that attaches itself to the flowers seems to be attaching itself to the volunteer’s stomach scar in some way, which I guess might symbolize a C-section and pairing the decaying flowers with some kind of feelings of motherly guilt. But I had more feelings of horror from Disney films than this one.

So if SKINAMARINK enraged you and THE OUTWATERS drove you to unhealthy levels of frustration (personally, I liked THE OUTWATERS a whole lot more than SKINAMARINK), steer clear of ENYS MEN. It is two slices of white bread with nothing in between. An air sandwich. Made with the two ends of a close to stale loaf. I do not like this new trend in horror. I’m not talking about critics gang-blowing art films and misleading the general public with glowing praise to go see a movie not made for general consumption. That’s been going on forever. I’m talking about horror centered on a feeling rather than story. The writer/director said he wrote this film in three days. I believe it! The imagery is transfixing and meditative, with an emphasis on doom and gloom. But while I admire the look of this film, as it tries to emulate some kind of seventies giallo film stock look and even gives the volunteer a bright red and yellow slicker a la DON’T LOOK NOW and ALICE SWEET ALICE, it just doesn’t feel like anything more than an ethereal, experimental film. ENYS MEN gets the feelings well, but fails to deliver on any substance whatsoever.

Check out the trailer here!!