The Curse of Audrey Earnshaw (Movie Review)

In the face of tragedy, some people reach more fervently toward God, while others, desperate as they are, question their faith and begin to whisper of devils. Among every flock there’s always one bad apple, and such is the case in The Curse of Audrey Earnshaw. Epic Pictures delivers the new Folk Horror offering first to VOD on Tuesday, October 6, 2020, and then to Blu-ray on Tuesday, October 20th.

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Written and directed by the exceptionally talented Thomas Robert Lee (Empyrean 2016), The Curse of Audrey Earnshaw contains notes of Robert Eggers’ The VVitch (2015), William McGregor’s Gwen (2019), and is apt to appeal to fans of the aforementioned two titles as well as Emma Tammi’s The Wind (2019), Raine McCormack’s The Village In the Woods (2019), Juan Diego Escobar Alzate’s Luz: The Flower of Evil (2020), and their ilk. A slow-burn look at the effect of tragedy in an insular, rural community, the script offers up disturbing notes of the occult and supernatural all as it pens the ballad of the titular Audrey Earnshaw (Jessica Reynolds: My Left Nut series).

Set amid the fall harvest of 1973, misfortune continues to ravage a devout, Protestant village led by Seamus Dwyer (Sean McGinley: Braveheart 1995, Shetland series). For the past 17 years, since the phenomenon known as the eclipse, the villagers have been plagued with a pestilence that has poisoned the soil and corrupted their livestock. Despite this curse upon their fortune, one homestead still manages to prosper—that of outsider and suspected witchcraft practitioner Agatha Earnshaw (Catherine Walker: Leap Year 2010, A Dark Song 2016).

As bad turns to worse, tensions are running high. Soon a physical altercation between the pastor’s distraught son, Colm Dwyer (Jared Abrahamson: Fear the Walking Dead series, American Animals 2018), and an unsuspecting Agatha will alter her life’s course and threaten to divulge her deepest secret to the townspeople. With the tragedies mounting, everyone in the tiny community will begin to question what the devil-woman might be hiding—and how it might relate to their predicament.

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The Curse of Audrey Earnshaw also features the acting talents of Hannah Emily Anderson (Jigsaw 2018, X-Men: Dark Phoenix 2019), Don McKellar (Last Night 1998, Blindness 2008), Geraldine O’Rawe (Circle of Friends 1995, Mariette in Ecstasy 2019), Tom Carey (Open Range 2003, Brokeback Mountain 2005), David LeReaney (Rat Race 2001, Wynonna Earp series), Anna Cummer (Mobile Suit Gundam Seed series, Iron Man: Armored Adventures series), and more.

We’ve already witnessed time and time again that Canadians have a superb knack for Horror, so it’s really no surprise that the film—produced in Alberta—is stellar. With appropriately understated and rustic costume design from Kendra Terpenning (Pyewacket 2017, Goalie 2019), it maintains a nuanced approach to Folk Horror throughout. So don’t expect any jump-scares or cheap tricks to get your buns out of your seat, instead, settle in for a disturbingly eerie mood that permeates beneath your skin. Nick Thomas’ (Ice Blue 2017, Hudson series) striking cinematography helps to tie it all together—as does the score by Bryan Buss (Empyrean 2016, Dead Weight short 2019) and Thilo Schaller (The Girl at the Door short 2019, There’s No Such Thing As Ghosts documentary 2020)—and the film ends with a flourish thanks to Calgary-based Hermitess’ haunting “Blood Moon,” which scores the end credits.

“A nightmarish descent into the mythic,” The Curse of Audrey Earnshaw is thick on autumnal aesthetic and perfect for an October release. With all of the above already stated, it’s important to note that the cast, several of whom are fairly new to the acting game, do a phenomenal job in delivering this dreary tale of the supernatural. A Rosemary’s Baby (1968) for 2020, the success of the entire production is reliant upon its ensemble cast to maintain the story’s 1800s neo-Colonial feel, which provides the foundation for its themes of faith, doubt, and legacy in a patriarchal society untouched by our modern mores.

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The story also serves as a mirror to our modern times, in which witch-hunts, division, suspicion, and a lack of faith has rendered many communities divided against themselves. Worse yet, amid a global pandemic. In 2019, Writer-Director Lee prophetically noted, “… It is a film both for and about today – we are fractured, increasingly tribal, fearing ‘the other’. It is 2019, yet we as a society remain trapped in some bygone era...” And the growing paranoia, hatred, and xenophobia in 2020 is echoed throughout The Curse of Audrey Earnshaw, on a smaller, more insular level, yes, but it’s there.

With all of these provocative layers to its spelling tale, at 93 minutes The Curse of Audrey Earnshaw never overstays its welcome, though, frankly put, it is not the type of Horror that will appeal to every lover of the genre. The eeriness is carefully nuanced, like a thick cloak of fog atop a rain-soaked valley, and while there are certainly some cringe-inducing moments, nothing is blatantly horrifying or apt to leave anyone with nightmares.

Here the threads of religious conviction and mythical beliefs toy with one another in a delicate dance, one that will be alluring for some and soporific for others. If you are someone who is always ready to fall on the side of sophisticated Folk Horror, who loves visual poetry in motion, we beseech you to add The Curse of Audrey Earnshaw to your October watchlist. For all of the above, Cryptic Rock gives The Curse of Audrey Earnshaw 5 of 5 stars.

Epic Pictures

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