31 Days of Hallowe’en 2021, Day 24: The Mare [2020]

This tiny Norwegian film almost escaped my radar because it was nestled into what I consider to be the movie dumping ground that is Amazon Prime, a site with a terrible user interface, full of bugs, with utterly crap sorting and filters, so you can never bloody find what you want. So luckily this film, with a date of one year ago (20 years in horror-movie-years) – somehow I was able to come across it. And it’s weirdly almost brilliant. But fuck them for making it, because I’m never watching it again.

The Mare (2020) - IMDb

So in The Mare, young man Liam (Alv Fossum) is being shipped off to his grandmother’s cabin for a few days by his increasingly estranged father, because the kid is having nightmares. At first things are suitably, relatably awkward, but things take a darker turn once he finds his mother (who died recently by suicide)’s old diary, in which she had been recording her own nightmares…that are similar to Liam’s. Ruh-roh.

It’s a simple story, but newcomer writer-director René Bjerregaard and cinematographer Ulrik Holsen make excellent use of the horrifyingly cramped, overbearing layout of the single location and, along with set decorator Madeleine Bjerregaard, takes overly familiar patterns like fairisle and florals and clashes them with dark hallway shapes and moonlit-spots to set dizzying spells on the viewer. It all makes for a dread-soaked set-up, but at times the storytelling ends up relying too much on its non-linear structure and dreams-within-dreams that the steadily building tension is sometimes fractured along with its main character’s psyche. The end result, though, is a genuinely positively frustrating but insidious effect, akin to how I felt after finishing the book House of Leaves – I enjoyed it and appreciated how well-done it was but, because of the slow, creeping effect it had on me, I wanted to throw it at the wall and tell it to go fuck itself. In a good way.

Score: 🎃🎃🎃

A word of warning, though – the final scene needs a trigger warning, so if you don’t want a spoiler, don’t read any further:

There is a very graphic suicide scene, and it brought up some horrible feelings for me. It didn’t help that I felt too close to some of the proceedings of the film, but that shouldn’t detract from the enjoyment of others catching this flick before those involved get big.

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