THE UNKINDNESS OF RAVENS (OCTOBER 5TH)
YOU'VE GOT RED ON YOU TAKES PART IN THE 31 DAYS OF HALLOWEEN CHALLENGE; WATCHING ONE HORROR MOVIE A DAY THROUGHOUT OCTOBER. SOME OF THEM OLD, SOME OF THEM NEW, SOME OF THEM HAVE JUST BEEN ON OUR SHELVES FOR YEARS GATHERING DUST, STILL IN CELLOPHANE...
Some people have got a theme for the films they are watching during the 31 days of Halloween challenge. They're watching only 80's slashers or anthology movies or Hammer horror or whatever. I on the other hand am attempting to cast a wide net and take in as many different sub-genres, budgets, locations, languages and eras as I can. Yesterday I went for The Invisble Man and had a Whale of a time (ha, geddit?!) and so I thought I'd try something a little different. Something a bit more serious in tone, maybe a bit heavier in subject matter. Enter a movie called The Unkindness of Ravens.
It's a movie I have been wanting to check out ever since we published an interview on the site with the multi-talented Sarah Daly, who penned the screenplay. It had a Kickstarter campaign that raised around £40,000 – an invaluable contribution that will have given a real boost to the project. The reviews were all pretty positive upon its release so it seemed like a perfect time to finally sit down and watch it.
The story begins with a homeless war veteran (played by Jamie Scott Gordon) who, after suffering from terrible PTSD related flashbacks and visions, is offered the chance to stay in a remote cabin in the Scottish highlands, the perfect place to clear your head you'd think? Sadly, no. It isn't. In fact, the sense of isolation and the eerie surroundings only exacerbate the problem. The sinister raven-like creatures that he thought were just a part of his nightmares...well, they suddenly seem more real than ever – and there's nowhere to escape to and no-one he can seek help from...
Man oh man is this a gruelling experience. To call it enjoyable or even entertaining would be a big ask, but then that's not what The Unkindness of Ravens is meant to be. Sometimes horror is just meant to be horrible. The longer it goes on, the darker and more graphic it gets and let me tell you, if you squirm when there's any eyeball related hi jinx going on in a movie, you will be wriggling around in your seat and covering your eyes a few times. Director Lawrie Brewster's quick-fire and abrupt direction add a sense of disorder and restlessness to the whole thing and the soundtrack (and use of sound in general) is managed in a similar way too. The result is an assault on the senses that won't suit everyone. I was well prepared for an uncomfortable time but if you were to come into this expecting a comfortable ride, you'll be in for a shock.
At times I wasn't sure what was going on, what was real and what was not, but then that's kinda the point. There aren't too many films (or film-makers) out there brave enough to tackle the subject of mental health and PTSD in particular and what we have here is a disturbingly dark portrayal of a man at the edge of sanity. The performance of Jamie Scott Gordon is powerfully raw too and I doubt he will have many more roles in his career as challenging as this. His performance alone is reason enough for watching the movie.
About sixty minutes in I did flag a little I must admit. The paranoia and flashbacks and weirdness of it all can indeed get pretty heavy. It's one of those films that may make you dream some weird shit during the night. The third act leaves some of that ambiguity behind a little and starts to give us a few answers. What it also give us is lashings of gore, blood and violence. It's been a little while since I've seen a film so committed to making its audience suffer. This isn't the kind of bloodshed that's presented in a pleasurably over-the-top kind of way, it's gruelling and hard to watch at times. However, instead of being put off (as some will invariably be) it's actually refreshing to see something like this being made. In a genre that is saturated with found-footage flops and remakes and sequels, to get the chance to see something original and a bit outre makes for welcome – if not exactly leisurely – viewing.
Right, I now need to watch something a bit more light-hearted and fluffy. In fact, think I saw that The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was playing on TCM in a bit...