Time to look at an odd triple feature I selected from my Prime watchlist. One of the movies even has a queer aspect…briefly.
SAVING GRACE (2023)
Argh! This movie has its moments and some clever aspects, but it all gets negated by the execution. It feels like the writing throws all these loose ends our way just to make the narrative twist a success.
We meet Sarah, who cares for invalids for a living. She heads to a secluded home by a lake to care for Grace, a woman who became an unresponsive mute after her twin sister dived into the water and just disappeared.
This is a slow burn that has Sarah struggling to keep her cool when it feels like someone else is in the house with them. Is it the ghost of Grace’s sister? Is the sister actually still alive? Is Grace just sleepwalking around the property? Is the caretaker who lives on the grounds really a nice a guy, or is there something he’s not telling Sarah? Has Sarah been brought to the property for a bigger, more sinister reason?
It’s hard to tell, mostly because this is yet another film made by creators convinced that the only way to deliver scares is to make every scene so dark we can’t see anything, and to ensure the main character, no matter how terrified she is, never turns on a fucking light. It’s infuriating.
The film is vaguely suspenseful, but it does recognize that it needs to keep things interesting, so it throws in a scary sequence that is actually a nightmare sequence (sigh).
On top of that, while the final twist is a goodie, there is no effort to explain all the other shady situations that made Sarah’s spidey senses tingle—what became of Grace’s sister’s body; what was up with the Lucifer book in the office of the woman who hired her; the suggestion that the caretaker had a secret hobby; the passing reference to a childhood trauma Sarah experienced; Sarah choking up a hairball…. none of it matters enough to be addressed by the script.
THE DEVIL COMES AT NIGHT (2023)
Not only does the title sound cliché, but the movie itself builds on familiar concepts in other occult-oriented home invasion flicks. Despite that, the Devil is in the details, and there are some unique details here. Unfortunately, the film fails to tap into what makes the best home invasion horror work.
So what’s unique here? A Black man comes to the home of his recently deceased, estranged father looking for his inheritance. This soon leads to a Black man vs. white supremacists angle.
We slowly learn of the Black man’s family history and how it relates directly with the motivation of the white cult that is surrounding his father’s house but unable to come in. And best of all…the specific goal of this cult is for their leader to eat the Black dude.
Setting the scene is intense, but only briefly, for with several odd characters dropping by too quickly to build momentum, the plot gets right to the point—bad cult wants in. We’re left with way too much time that needs to sustain suspense, and it just doesn’t happen. On top of that, so many extremely dark scenes cloak the action. Argh! The only thing worse than sitting through one film that is too darkly lit is to sit through two in a row!
The constantly changing plots and tonal shifts in this South African film will have your head spinning faster than Regan’s in The Exorcist. I say that because, well, this is partially a possession film.
That’s not how it starts. It begins with a teenage girl getting caught kissing another girl. Her father sends her to a reverend for “conversion therapy”.
But is this a film about the horrors of conversion therapy? I’m not sure. The reverend concludes that lesbianism isn’t the main problem here. He believes the girl is possessed! So he straps her down to a bed and calls in some other dude to help him cleanse her.
Meanwhile, there’s this group of friends. One dude smokes pot, and all his friends are afraid he may have done something awful to his ex-girlfriend, which he denies.
And yet, the possessed lesbian begins visiting him in his nightmares. She also likes to bite people. At this point, I was like the only one who cared that she’s a lesbian.
When the group of friends eventually has a party, the possessed lesbian summons all the guests to come to her, and they basically turn into zombies that prey on the reverend, his sidekick, and the main group of friends.
Whiplash, I tell you.
Perhaps the film is trying to imply that sinful homosexuality is a plague that will take everyone down with it? I don’t know. I usually like these weird films that jump subgenres from one scene to the next with no rhyme or reason, but I found this one to be too mild and horror lite to pull off the bizarre vibe it was going for.