In the new thriller The Curse of Audrey Earnshaw we see what happens when a community reaches its limits. In 1873 a group of families separated from the church of Ireland and lived in a settlement in North America. They live isolated from the world around them and have kept to their own ways. Now 100 years later, even as the world has evolved around them, they seem to be stuck in the past. The community was flourishing until 17 years before the start of the film, when ‘the eclipse’ happened. The eclipse brought pestilence to the land. As the food sources diminished, the townspeople became more desperate. Yet somehow Agatha Earnshaw (Catherine Walker), who lives at an isolated farmstead on the outskirts of town, was not affected.
During the eclipse Agatha gave birth to a daughter, Audrey (Jessica Reynolds), that she has kept hidden from the community. As the townsfolk have become more and more desperate, they have pleaded with Agatha to share her harvest. Agatha always declines, in fear that any interaction will lead to the discovery of Audrey’s existence. When Colm (Jared Abrahamson) and Bridget Dwyer’s (Hannah Emily Anderson) son passes away, emotions reach a boiling point. Agatha unknowingly drives her cart with her harvest past the funeral enraging Colm. Audrey, hidden in the back, witnesses Colm strike her mother, enraging her. To make matters worse, Bernard Buckley (Don McKellar) happens to drive by as Audrey is in the open. As Audrey’s anger keeps mounting, she pays a visit to the Dwyer’s to take matters in her own hands. As tensions rise, the community as a whole is about to reach a breaking point.
The Curse of Audrey Earnshaw really shines in capturing the spirit and feel of a late 1800s settlement. Writer/director Thomas Robert Lee successfully transports the audience back in time including perfect setting and costume choices that feel authentic. Lee succeeds in showing the dire straits this community is in. From the muted dreary colors, ominous tones, and slow camera panning – it is almost as if the energy is purposefully sapped from the film. Lee breaks the film into chapters, furthering the old time feel while helping guide the pace and narrative. As the chapters continue, Audrey’s anger and evolution become increasingly apparent and the Dwyer’s continue to suffer.
Lee manages to frame haunting shots that are burned in your memory, without relying on gore and grotesque imagery. Many thrillers throw disgusting images or jump scares out trying to find quick ways to “scare” the audience. Lee goes in a different direction that ultimately proves more meaningful and long lasting. He builds a sense of dread throughout The Curse of Audrey Earnshaw with each scene and chapter that passes. It takes a little bit of time to really get going, but it is worth the wait. Audrey’s teenage angst combined with the hatred boiling inside of her make for quite the spectacle. The Curse of Audrey Earnshaw is not perfect and does falter at times but is successful more often than not. Overall, the direction, performances, pacing, and setting/costumes make The Curse of Audrey Earnshaw a worthwhile watch, especially during spooky October.