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“There is a lot of familiar genre language here – a ouija board, a bloody bathtub, shifting shadows – but it is Zanotti’s performance which pulls it all together.”

The difficulty with a lot of popular horror fare is that whilst it might be entertaining, it doesn’t go very deep, and if one has experienced any real trauma in life it simply glances off the surface. Faye is horror of a different kind. Here, everything is driven by the kind of horrific real life experience which is all too common and leaves people facing what seems like endless pain, with no idea how to go on with their lives.

Faye (Sarah Zanotti) is a writer in the early stages of her career. She has published a successful self help book and won a lot of fans in the process, but everything has since gone off the rails. Jacob, the man she loved, is dead – and worse, the car crash which killed him occurred on a night when he wouldn’t have gone out if she hadn’t persuaded him to, making it easy for her to blame herself. As most people would in this situation, she has taken some time off, but now she has to get back to work, to produce the next book before her publisher drops her, and it’s pushing her to crisis point.

Though doubtless constrained by financial pressures further along the chain, her publisher is not unsympathetic. That’s how she comes to be offered a break in a quiet cabin on the Louisiana bayou – a chance to get away from day to day pressures and focus on producing chapters. It is, of course, the sort of isolated location which will immediately make horror fans jumpy. As darkness falls and Faye starts knocking back large quantities of red wine whilst talking to her dead husband as if he were still present, director Kd Amond explores the uncertain physical and psychological landscape, introducing threats whose precise nature is not immediately apparent, but which are serious either way.

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Amond and Zanotti have worked together before (on 2020’s Rattled) and clearly understand each other well. This is vital in the sort of project which could easily have faltered but for the confidence with which it is approached. There is a lot of familiar genre language here – a ouija board, a bloody bathtub, shifting shadows – but it is Zanotti’s performance which pulls it all together. Her frequent to-camera pieces, as Faye makes videos for her fans, have an increasing rawness about them. Somewhere behind the professional mask, Faye is aware that she’s slipping into alcoholism, and that’s only one aspect of the self destructive urges assailing her at this vulnerable time.

With Faye present in every scene, the film invites us into a very uncomfortable headspace and leaves us depending on her for our understanding of the events we see. It also prompts us to question our instinctive responses to certain behaviours, and to understand – if we do not already – the destabilising effect which intense grief can have. It’s an effective little chamber piece, and Zanotti is a star whom one hopes we shall see more of.

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Reviewed on: 09 May 2022

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