Thursday, 31 March 2016



This screened at this year's Glasgow FrightFest, and while some didn't particularly care for it I liked it very much. Anguish ("inspired by true events" according to an opening caption) is an enjoyable little horror that works through being a low-key and creepy indie rather than a loud and jumpy multiplex popcorn-spiller. Comparisons have been made to It Follows, not least by the film's own marketing, and while it's not in that league, and doesn't go for that film's 80s retro mood (no Carpenter style synths on the soundtrack), it's well acted, well paced, and it does have a similarly engaging non-Hollywood sense of place.

There's a very nice Stanley Kubrick quote to the effect that ghost stories are essentially optimistic since they clearly suggest an afterlife, and by extension that would encompass stories of possession by the recently deceased. Anguish centres around two mothers and daughters: teenage Lucy (Amberley Gridley), recently killed in a tragic road accident following a silly row with her mother (Karina Logue), and a girl of the same age, Tess (Ryan Simpkins), who's just moved into the same small Nowheresville, USA with her mother (Annika Marks). Spooky events ensue as Tess seems to be taken over by Lucy: but is it a ghost, or a possession.... or might it all just be a result of the medication Tess has to take every day?

Though there are certainly some visually striking moments that look good in the trailer but don't necessarily much much narrative sense (such as a multitude of hands at a window), mostly Anguish does have a feel of being rooted in reality with an agreeably dark mood. Boasting an almost entirely female cast (both fathers are missing, though one does appear occasionally via Skype calls), its horror is less that of being possessed by a departed spirit than the idea of that spirit seeking to reconnect, even briefly, with the living world, even if has to take over a living host to do so. Maybe it's a pity that after two thirds of its running time creating an ambience and atmosphere the film changes gear into a more overt possession thriller with flickering lights and the mothers and daughter(s) battling around the house, as if they've realised they need to keep the punters from getting restless.

Frankly Anguish doesn't need to bother with the more obvious stuff, but it does get away with it and the last few scenes do return to the subtlety of much of the earlier parts of the film: it's a refreshing change from unbelievable people shouting Boo! at you all the time (Anguish has its jump moments, sure, but they're far from the whole point of the exercise) and it's a pity it's only playing "Key Cities" before a DVD release in two weeks' time. Well worth seeking out.


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