A cringe “metal” band isn’t the only thing that this mother-daughter duo is hiding from the outside world.
This low-budget supernatural horror film is quite the experimental ride; overflowing with crazy visuals (maybe too much weirdness at times though) and set in wooded isolation – outsiders aren’t allowed access here. Directed by Zelda Adams, Toby Poser, and John Adams, and if you haven’t guessed it, this is a family production. Along with the direction they also produced the film, created the score (playing certain songs themselves), manned the camera, and even starred in it – they basically do every role available. So, credit where credit is due, this passion project is a lot of responsibility for them to take on. They are all singing off the same hymn sheet and doing exactly what they want. No one can tell this family what to do (which is the great thing about self-production) although someone should have probably told them that enough is enough, and they need to rein it in a bit.
I’m all for experimental films crashing down those walls of normality, but this felt overly weird and extra alternative, there is a need to always have something abnormal. It was overwhelming and unnecessary – I almost had an anxiety attack at several points, that’s no good. This film ran off a small budget – which is clear as day – and you know what you’re going to get from these kinds of films (we’ve seen enough of them over the years) some good old-fashioned trickery; smoke, bright lights, and a need to let go of the camera’s reins. Although, some credit is due because several effects were very out of the box; quite creative and diverse, and they looked like fun to play around with.
The story revolves around Izzy (Zelda Adams) and her mother (real-life mum Toby Poser) who live a simple life in a home in the woods, spending their time making metal music (even though it isn’t metal and more akin to some sort of soft punk). They are an unusual mother-daughter duo who leave a free-spirited way of life, their dinner time consists of eating a plate full of berries, a variety of leaves and a pinecone (no wonder they’re a bit crazy, you would be too). A chance encounter with a fellow teen causes her to uncover a connection between her family and witchcraft, which results in a rift with her mother. There are early hints about the origin of this family; “you cared for my grandmother” says an old man to a much younger woman, that’s a giveaway.
There is such an incredible amount of cringe involved with this film that it hurts, it slaps you in the face at certain moments (I’m not even sure what that drum solo scene at the pool was about). And the acting isn’t very engaging, it’s even hard to watch at times, but Zelda Adams is probably the strongest out of the group though, her character has more of an arc and seems to be the only character with any development and an array of emotions. There is a clear mission to represent witches as strong but introverted women, with the punky music being used as a muse – a release of one’s frustrations – and we all know the link that metal and punk music have with the occult.
But as I mentioned earlier, this film does have some moments of enjoyment (even if they are scattered). The trippy hallucinogenic scenes are extremely vibrant and creative, and they are accompanied by an obscure score; one that is very sharp and aims to unsettle and even provoke you into a reaction. Their uncouth nature fits the narrative of the film, if it was something more refined then it would be weird.
Even though it has some good qualities, I can’t help but feel let down by the fact this film basically has no plot (it is basically a bonding session between a mother and daughter, teaching her the tricks of the occult). And then, as if by magic, the last ten minutes explodes into an exciting and graphic resolution – I’d like to say it was unexpected, but going by horror norms, something was bound to happen. A frantic ten minutes isn’t enough to save the film, but it desperately needed this culmination to wind everything up; answering the questions that hurt your head to ask, and finally delivering something.