Charismata, the English film by directors Andy Collier & Toor Mian is a tense psycho-horror thriller that delivers on many counts. As my first feature of FilmQuest, it was an excellent start!
The film’s plot is about the plight of Detective Rebecca Faraway played by Sarah Beck Mather, as she works to solve a strange series of homicides. She’s dealing with a lot of stress and her work environment isn’t helping. Detective Faraway works in a man’s world as the only female member of a homicide team. Entrenched in the sexist banter of her colleagues, and recovering from a recent psychotic episode, Faraway must earn respect at every turn. She’s also recently divorced and selling her house as part of her divorce agreement is proving difficult. Making matters worse, her team is called to a gory crime scene at the site of a Satanic ritual. As the plot thickens, the atmosphere and tension hike, and Faraway’s investigation pushes her to the edge of her sanity. The body count rises and Faraway begins to suspect that a sinister force is at play.
Now, this may be a familiar plot line, and certainly we’ve seen female homicide detectives fight against all odds in cinema, but this film manages to shine because it presents the movie from a refreshed perspective. This movie intimately explores Faraway’s character and pulls you into her plight effectively. Mather’s performance is spot on and I could tangibly feel her stress and angst. She is truly a tormented soul and she can’t catch a break. Cutting the intensity are moments of dry humor and quirky banter. There are fantastic ensemble scenes between the homicide team that are worth a giggle. They offer a bit of richness to the story as you come to understand that even though they represent an annoyance to Faraway, they are just a bunch of guys. They rib Faraway just as they do each other and in a way, it is an inclusive practice. Her partner, Eli played by Andonis Anthony, shows a bit more compassion towards Faraway than his colleagues. His character arch is used to create false sense of relief in the film and I thought this subtle use of character was brilliant story telling. The main suspect, played by Jamie Satterthwaite, is the perfect mixture of creepy and handsome, playing a dubious executive who gets under Faraway’s skin.
The gore in this film adds atmosphere and a sense of mystery. Impressive effects and make up work is crafted for the dead bodies found at the crime scenes. Each victim is killed in a unique matter so the make-up department created a very unique cadaver for each scene. The work offers stark and disturbing imagery, fitting to the heroine’s internal struggle.
Adding to the atmosphere and flow is the script. At first, it sounded a bit hokey to me, albeit forgivable. After about 20 minutes, I realized I was really enjoying subtle cadence of the writing, performances, and pacing. This film has a hypnotic rhythm to it that works to suck you into the story. It’s so effective that I was dismayed at the awkward ending. The filmmakers made a wrong move here. The ending is poorly handled and sudden, breaking that beautiful resonance and atmosphere that is established up until the last few minutes. Story-wise it’s a solid ending, but the delivery sabotages the nuance and thematic power that makes the movie so strong. I don’t consider it a deal-breaker and the movie is good even with this hiccup, but it prohibits the film from being much grander.
Even with the spotty ending, Charismata delivers and is a respectable crime thriller if you like a darker tone to your cinema. Its wonderful performances and writing hold it above other independent films of its ilk. Deserving of a large audience, I really enjoyed it at FilmQuest and I applaud the filmmakers for their work. Keep them coming, boys and thank you for the creepy ride!
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The Diva Del Mar
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