Onus (2020)

Director: Alex Secker
Starring: Daniella Faircloth, Erin Leighton, Tony Manders .UK. 1h 28m

A new contender to join the ranks of British Folklore Horror, and while it’s clear to see the distinctive influences floating around in Alex Seckers detailed dark thriller, I personally just felt that it didn’t ignite in a way that it should have but I do have respect for the bold attempt to scare audiences with those folk figures and rituals we don’t want to believe are real so we can sleep safe at night, however I feel that this is a first draft of something that could have been massively great.

With the limited budget this well crafted movie works it’s curious magic within one large country home with only a handful of cast. Alex manages to set up a miniature Wicker Man (1973) highlighting a history of pagan worship and ritual all hidden under the cloak of smug rich faces.

Anna (Faircloth) is a trainee nurse who’s fallen in love with a Izzy (Leighton), a rich socialite who’s invited her to meet her privileged family, a brother too pre occupied with looking down at poor people while he lives it up in London and a mother who just likes to shover her rich ass weight around, they really are the worst or the toffs and maybe their characters are a little overdone? Anna was merely expecting to maybe clash over politics and class battles, she instead finds a strange eerie atmosphere in the luxury mansion. Alex paints an evocative family dynamic, all very posh and oblivious to what common people have to put up with, their contestant aggressive commanding of the black housekeeper is stomach churning, but she’s part of the family having recently taken over from her mother. Anna, instantly takes to her, after all they are from similar social backgrounds and they do make an effort to help each other when the pressure comes from the rich family who begin to come together like sharks sensing blood in the water.

Anna loses an earring, and begins to feel unwell and if often bed ridden for her stay but while she feels like Rosemary (Rosmars Baby) being ripped for a satanic duty, she’s concerned about the mysterious man hidden behind a locked door and secret whispered conversations between the family that highlight a covert mission but without a phone signal it’s up to Anna to rescue herself.

The maids role is one of the more curious, I don’t know if this is a kick back from the wave of Jordan Peel horrors where a darker skin character really helps to sell, but it would have worked better in an American film, edging in a bit of slavery kickback, and I’m not saying for one minute that it’s not a British problem also, but I feel there could have been a bit more growth and explination about why she felt so oblighed to be around the family when they treat her so badly.

Anna, with her wealth of experience in helping people, is alienated by the family who are solely concerned with increasing their wealth and the health of the patriarch, but her nursing skills don’t seem to be what they are after from her as she starts to have terrible dreams and visions of wicker masked assailants standing around a fire begging for her sacrifice.

Onus, a title that suggests burden, responsibility, and duty. but the task at hand is something that Lord Summerisle would be happy to organise, this folklore piece is a miniature Wicker Man with a touch of Ben Wheatly’s mask making skills, it has a solid plan but for me it’s just poorly executed and doesn’t end, it seems to just give up and falls as flat at the acting, I feel it could have has a heavier ghostly atmosphere threaded through it.. Instead it simmers down to a slightly unnerving movie about paranoia, class and old gods.

 

Rating: 2/10

Related: Wicker Man (1973), Kill List (2011), Webcast (2018)
Lists: British Folklore

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