The newest installment from Talal Selhami is self-described as “a cross between IT and The Babadook”.
This is a B movie right down to its core; questionable acting (which goes hand in hand with the horror genre), its low-budget feel – with the special effects making that very clear – and the general feeling of it being a familiar copy of past success stories. However, you can examine this film from a variety of angles, there is a dark and gritty horror feel to it, a psychological thriller of sorts that tries to be experimental, with music and style assisting in that feeling. As well as that though, it has the notions of a straight up supernatural slasher film, with a fantastical villain going about its villainy – but do all these angles work together in perfect harmony? It’s a tough ask and something it ultimately falls short on, but not through a lack of effort.
This joint French/Moroccan production revolves around four friends who reconnect after one of them, who disappeared when they were children, suddenly comes back into their lives. They must reunite and confront the nightmarish memory of their youth, fighting a fabled monster from urban folklore and to uncover the mystery around their missing friend.
The monster itself – which hunts on children for self-invigoration – begins as a creepy unknown entity, its mystery is what creates the intended supernatural atmosphere, an atmosphere that was short lived as the Djinn then proceeds to pop up at every opportunity, it lost its eeriness completely and thus, results in a rather tame – and slightly lame – game of cat and mouse with a ridiculous looking creature. I’m not one to get scared by horror films very often, and there was no harm in that changing with this one.
The first half of Achoura is much stronger than the second half (which isn’t really saying much), the build-up and the establishing of the story were far more suspenseful and eerie, whereas the second half felt abrupt and didn’t live up to that suspenseful build up. The score was effective (particularly in the beginning), the fading in and out of deep string instruments aids to that sinister feel. Was the dramatic music too pungent and controlling though? Possibly, but sticking to musical clichés is the norm for horror enthusiasts.
There was something that bugged me and that was the pacing, it felt a little chaotic to say the least. With it being a relatively short film, it chose to cram an awful lot in a short space of time, it began zooming from place to place, backwards and forwards in time and then it ended, just like that. There was a sense of atmosphere in the beginning, but it got lost in the mayhem. There was a moment portrayed as a flashback where the aesthetic changes to a fantasy feel, with the bright colours and the children telling stories of mystic folklore, but it felt totally against the norm of the film – I’m not sure of this aesthetics purpose.
Achoura overall was fine; an easy watch that doesn’t ask for much engagement. I do think horrors can be made on low budgets, but it all depends on what genre of horror you are aiming for; slashers, thrillers, psychological films, are all a big yes, but the supernatural element where you rely on imagery and effects can often become tacky which cheapens the film. There were many clichés, which is to be expected because the horror genre is littered with them, and the film turned into a bit of a cheese fest because of it. Achoura isn’t terrible by any means, but I wouldn’t be in a hurry to recommend it to my friends any time soon.