Content Warning: They're Outside includes a brief scene about self-harm that may be triggering to some viewers. This scene is briefly discussed in the following review.
If you developed a short-term fear of going outside in March 2020, you’re probably not the only one. During the onset of the COVID-19 crisis in the U.S., once-simple errands turned into elaborate and complex rituals involving masks, Clorox wipes, and hand sanitizer. But after only a few months of quarantine, most of us were so ready to get back to our normal routines that we overcame our fears and started to venture outside with ease once again. But for those who suffer from agoraphobia, the fear of public spaces and social interactions can be a life-long struggle. These fears might sound irrational to those who don’t experience a lot of anxiety. But truth be told, you never know what horrors are waiting just outside your door — especially if you’re a character in a horror movie. In They’re Outside, a found-footage-style horror flick from directors Airell Anthony Hayles and Sam Casserly, a YouTube psychologist investigates the case of a woman who developed agoraphobia after the disappearance of her young daughter. However, the arrogant influencer has no idea that this grieving mother’s seemingly irrational fears have nothing to do with psychology and everything to do with the paranormal.
Content Warning: The Blazing World involves heavy subject matters that may be triggering to some viewers, including self-harm. These issues are briefly discussed in the following review.
The fantasy genre is endlessly attractive. It can enchant us with whimsical imagery and inspire us with dynamic characters who set off on adventurous quests. Fantasy lets us escape into mystical worlds with different rules than our own — but usually, those worlds reveal some kind of universal truth. In The Blazing World, a college student named Margaret Winter (played by Carlson Young, who also wrote and directed the movie) enters a fantasy world that reflects the inner workings of her subconscious mind. Her mystical journey through this world allows her to process grief that she’s been bottling up since childhood. The Blazing World is an attractive fantasy film, but a flawed one. It’s attractive in a sensory way, charming us with lush imagery and a rich sound design. The story, however, is more distancing than attractive, and it gets stuck under the weight of heavy-handed and self-indulgent psychoanalytic themes.
“Be careful what you wish for, be certain what you pray for:” Religious intentions are put on trial in “The Righteous” [Fantasia International Film Festival]
Originally published on Elements of Madness.
If you’re into Southern Gothic literature, you’ll go nuts over Mark O’Brien’s feature directorial debut, The Righteous, which screened at the Fantasia International Film Festival earlier this month. Granted, it was filmed in Canada and not the American South, but it sure does capture the dread, madness, religious anxiety, supernatural freakishness, and overall darkness of the genre. The Righteous tells the tale of ex-priest Frederic (Henry Czerny) and his wife, Ethel (Mimi Kuzyk), who are trying to make sense of their lives after they lose their only daughter. The couple’s mourning process comes to a halt one night when a stranger, Aaron (Mark O’Brien), shows up outside their home with a sprained ankle. Aside from his irreverent vocabulary and general secretiveness, Aaron is a harmless, mild-mannered kid. However, his presence casts a haunting shadow over Frederic and Ethel’s household, a shadow that will change their lives forever.
"Our embodied spectator, possibly perverse in her fantasies and diverse in her experience, possesses agency...finally, she must now be held accountable for it."