Writer/director Robert Thomas Lee’s The Curse of Audrey Earnshaw is a Canadian horror/drama film that feels like an unholy union of Robert Eggers’ The Vvitch and M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village.
No spoilers here, this all comes from the film’s opening titles. The movie takes us back to the 1970s in a devout religious rural community of Northern Irish expats in America. Like The Village however, this society is out of time, conducting themselves as pilgrims in the 17th century.
The community has been beset by pestilence, dying crops and livestock since an eclipse 17 years prior. We also learn that during that eclipse, Agatha Earnshaw (Catherine Walker) secretly gave birth to her daughter Audrey (Jessica Reynolds). Eventually the townsfolk come to the conclusion that Agatha is practicing witchcraft, and Audrey chooses to get involved to protect her mother.
I really enjoyed this film. Like I said, it does feel like a spiritual sequel to The VVitch, and oddly our lead Audrey does look strikingly like that film’s lead Anya Taylor-Joy at times.
The acting in this film is superb. There is not a bad performance. Catherine Walker as Agatha Earnshaw turns in a very powerful and tormented portrayal. Jared Abrahamson’s Colm was absolutely wonderful and his character’s plight was heartbreaking. Bernard – a very conflicted character – had me confounded. I recognized that face, yet I couldn’t place it. Turned out to be Canadian cinema royalty Don McKellar. But the standout was easily Jessica Reynolds as the titular Audrey. Her character skirts between innocent, violent, loyal, and cruel. Her’s is indeed a powerhouse performance.
The film is presented in chapters that reflect Audrey’s coming-of-age and resentment of her peers. It gets pretty violent, though much of that happens off-screen. Still we, the audience, are made to feel rather uncomfortable.
I loved the look of this film. It uses a washed out color palette reflecting the bleak story perfectly. We see forests and farms, mist and gloom, and while there is a beauty there, it never looks like a place that we’d want to live.
The film is sad, but also gruesome at times, once again evoking connections to The VVitch.
The very ending of The Curse of Audrey Earnshaw did frustrate me somewhat. The film suggests an idea, a physical thing, but we don’t see it, and I would have loved to have seen it. We see characters reacting to it, but it left me feeling a little cold and unfulfilled. We’ve built to this moment, and to not show it, that left me wanting. They say “leave them wanting more”, but I’m not entirely sure that that’s a rule that needs to be followed at all times.
All of that said, I really enjoyed this film, despite its ending. It’s very well written, brilliantly acted, and the production design is top notch. The Curse of Audrey Earnshaw is a unique, creepy movie, and if slow-burn horror is your thing, it comes highly recommended from me.