★★★1/2 out of ★★★★★
A wildly original, but often difficult to follow cosmic horror tale about dreams and destiny, from an emerging Turkish horror auteur director.
Directed by Can Evernol
Cults, dreams, and tentacular action. These are hallmarks of Lovecraftian lore, and they are on full display in Housewife, the new film from Can Evernol, the young Turkish director of the much-lauded Baskin. This film was one of the center-piece showcase features at the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival, and it absolutely belonged at this convention. Some other hallmarks about H.P. Lovecraft’s work, and work inspired by his writings, are that they are dense and often confusing. That too can be said about Housewife.
The film opens and closes with powerful and searing imagery, and in the middle meanders through dreams and twisted realities. The first act introduces Holly, a girl of about ten, who is shown innocently playing dolls with her older sister, while her mother is performing some strange ritual in a secret chamber downstairs. A cruel situation leads to the murder of her sister and her father, forcing Holly to panic and flee the scene of the crime.
We are rejoined with Holly (Clémentine Poidatz) as an adult, who is now married to a crime-thriller novelist, Timucin (Ali Aksöz) where they live in relative marital bliss, and Holly seems to have coped with the tragedy in her life somewhat successfully. The couple is coaxed by some old friends into attending an upscale Scientology-like group gathering, led by the charismatic leader Bruce O’Hara (David Sakurai) that has all the trappings of a modern apocalyptic death-cult (and he has the mini-headset microphone that just screams “Snake Oil!”). At this “family meeting” O’Hara struts the stage to the rapturous adoration of the crowd and is immediately drawn to Holly.
O’Hara manages to tap into Holly’s subconscious, drawing out her memories, and inducing a dream-like state, rather like a traveling Pentecostal preacher who would lay hands on his followers. It is at this point that the movie begins to wander. Where the dreams and memories intermingle and distort becomes very hard to untangle. It might take several viewings to piece together the structure of the second act. Characters pop up at odd moments, and it is unclear as to whether what we are seeing is part of a memory or happening in the active world. Wha? Huh? What just happened? That said, the movie wanders with a purpose, and by the time the third act is engaged, the path to how we get to the finish line seems a little less problematic.
There is a huge punchline to the movie, that I dare not spoil. It does a full callback to the opening act, and it reveals a lot that was only lightly hinted at during the first hour and a half. The movie does go full on mythos, and for fans of Lovecraftian stories, this will be a winner. It also features some really disturbing imagery, and would probably exceed 21 on the Scariest Horror Meter.
Thematically, this film was like that of mid-cycle David Cronenberg movies like Existenz or Naked Lunch. While Evernol may not dive into the full-on body horror imagery of Cronenberg, tonally, his films have the same twisty narratives and “I cannot believe what I just saw” sensations that the Canadian director often subjected his viewers to watch. Housewife will take a bit of digesting to comprehend. Along with Baskin, this makes Evernol 2 for 2 in the “What did I just watch?” spectrum of films.
Stylistically, there is definitely a movement within the genre to recapture the look of the Italian giallo films. The color palette of Dario Argento is in play here, saturating the film with cerulean blues, flashes of magenta and red, and the occasional golden glow. It is a gorgeous movie to watch.
Two of Evernol’s European contemporaries, Panos Cosmatos (Mandy, Beyond the Black Rainbow) and Marc Martinez Jordan (Framed) have similarly embraced the full-color spectrum of the giallo tradition. Like Cosmatos, Evernol aslo picks up the mantle of the surreal, and the non-linear storytelling tradition of the Italian new-wave horror.
Housewife is Not Rated, but I would describe this as a hard-R rating. The movie is still working its way through the festival circuit, but it is now available for streaming on Amazon Prime and iTunes.