Matriarch (2022) Review

Spoiler-free so you can read before you watch

Matriarch (2022) Review

Horrorific content by angie on October 24th, 2022 | Movie Review | Slow Burn, Possession, Demon, Madness, Thriller, Dysfunctional Family, Witchcraft

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It's about a stressed executive who overdoses on cocaine, contracts a mysterious illness, and returns to her hometown and estranged mother to confront her personal demons, but discovers a supernatural threat instead.

Matriarch was directed by Ben Steiner (The Stomach) and stars Jemima RooperKate Dickie (Raven's Hollow, Shepherd, and The Green Knight), Sarah PaulFranc Ashman, and Keith David Bartlett.

Matriarch (2022) Review

The new Huluween film Matriarch is all about terror at home. Written and directed by Ben Steiner, the movie expands on his 2018 short film "Urn." So if you're looking for a good scare this Halloween, check out Matriarch! A severe illness compels a woman to return to her hometown, triggering a bizarre and enlightening journey of self-discovery and terror. Matriarch overreaches with its narrative, but its horrific visuals are unforgettable.

Laura leads a high-stress lifestyle as an executive in the city. She often turns to cocaine to cope with her anxiety, which makes it challenging to maintain healthy relationships. Something strange is going on with Laura- she's become ill and doesn't seem to be responding to medication. Her mother, Celia, invites her to come home in hopes that it will help her heal. However, Laura's homecoming is far from what was hoped for. There seems to be something wrong with the town; the neighbors act oddly and can be unfriendly. None of this compares to the growing tense and toxic relationship between mother and daughter.

The Matriarch protagonist is introduced as someone struggling in adulthood and has a lot of unresolved issues from her past. The story raises questions about her estrangement and if her strange illness, which causes the black liquid to ooze from her body, might be something that she inherited. Steiner stretches out the time it takes to have these questions answered as Laura travels home to the countryside, where a Wicker Man-like folk horror atmosphere dwells.

Although strange things have been happening and Laura has had some bizarre encounters, she doesn't seem to be in a hurry to find out what's happening. It all seems to center around her estranged relationship with Celia. As Laura returns home, she finds herself torn between an ominous supernatural threat and reopening the psychological wounds from her childhood. Subplots involving former flames and forgotten neighborly grudges complicate her journey, prolonging the inevitable.

Although the plot details may be difficult to understand, the atmosphere and horror images are much more effective, slowly building up to unexpected and shocking body horror. The film's third act is full of gruesome horror, foreboding pagan rituals, and astonishing surprises that almost make the wait worth it.

The visual spectacle at the end of the movie may not be worth the wait for some people because it feels empty. Steiner focuses too much on mood and atmosphere instead of resolving the plot. In addition, there seems to be a disconnect between the quiet, unsettling folk horror elements and the over-the-top body horror in the finale. It's not entirely clear how these two things fit together.

Worth Watching? 

Matriarch is full of ideas and provides some truly horrifying moments, though it may be too ambitious for some. Dickie and Rooper are both excellent in their respective roles; Dickie, in particular, is a menacing force like Celia. Unfortunately, we still don't know anything about Laura or her childhood by the end of the story, and we're not particularly invested in her either. The only thing that keeps us going is the horror element.

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