Starring Keaniehtiio Horn, Ezra Buzzington, Eamon Farren, Justin Rain, Jon Huber
Directed by Ted Geoghegan
We all know Ted Geoghegan from 2015’s We Are Still Here, a fantastic entry into the haunted house subgenre of horror that starred icons Barbara Crampton and Larry Fessenden. Now Geoghegan is back with Mohawk, a period action/drama that clearly features his love of horror but adapts it to suit a story built upon pain, complexity, and historical tragedy.
The film, set in 1814, follows Oak (Kaniehtiio Horn) and her two lovers, Joshua (Eamon Farren), and Calvin (Justin Rain). Joshua, a British soldier, is trying to convince Oak’s mother Wentahawi (Sheri Foster) that the Mohawk tribe must align with UK forces against the Americans lest they get slaughtered. However, Wentahawi wants nothing to do with either side, electing to remain neutral, something Calvin doesn’t agree with. On his own, he slips into an American outpost and kills several soldiers before being chased away. So begins the hunt of Oak, Joshua, and Calvin by Colonel Hezekiah Holt (Ezra Buzzington) and his men.
Mohawk, for the vast majority of its runtime, is confined to the forests of rural New York, where it was shot. And while much talk is made of mountains and ridges, we sadly never see these potentially beautiful views. The film remains confined below the leaves, robbing us of the chance to see the expansive wilderness that these characters are battling against each other in. Furthermore, not only do we remain below the canopy of leaves, there is something strangely claustrophobic about the way Mohawk was filmed. Action shots are often so close that it’s difficult to understand what is happening and even many scenes of dialogue are shot as close-ups. The end result is that the location feels, in a strange way, useless. At a certain point, I began to wonder if the shots were all done in the same immediate vicinity, just with the camera pointed in a different direction for different scenes.
Speaking of strange cinematography choices, there are also editing issues that make the film feel very jumpy. Whereas great care is put into much of the film and ensuring that everything flows smoothly, there are times during action sequences when it feels like a few seconds are lost in the space of one edit. Such jarring edits don’t feel like a result of the heat of battle but rather are a questionable decision in the editing bay.
The film aims to challenge the views of audiences with a couple different themes that areas relevant now as they were over two centuries ago. The first is by introducing an LGBTQ element into the film, with Oak and her polyamorous relationship between Joshua and Calvin. It is also quite strongly suggested, if not outright made clear, that Joshua and Calvin have their own romantic thing going on as well. The only person who has an issue with Joshua’s sexual relationship between Oak and Calvin is Oak’s mother, Wentahawi. Her issue, however, is not out of disgust at the thought of such a relationship taking place, it’s that she feels like he is doing for his own personal gains as a British soldier. And while this topic could’ve made for some wonderful tension throughout the film, it’s such a secondary thought that it feels wasted. Yes, we see the love between the three and it feels natural since we see no jealousy between them but it’s never explored. If the point was to make it seem natural and “every day”, it absolutely succeeded. But if it aimed to do anything more than that, it failed.
The other theme that might cause many audience members to cause a fuss is that the film doesn’t make any pretense about America being rather villainous, at least in relation to the other parties in the film. “We’re the only monsters left out here,” Colonel Holt growls at his men at one point in the film, after several atrocities were committed. It’s rather on the nose, as is the way the American soldiers look: dirtier and more pathetic than anyone else in the film.
Even though Americans are the baddies in this film, Geoghegan and co-writer Grady Hendrix elected to muddy the waters. Remember, it was Calvin who opened the floodgates with his own personal attack. Whether or not the Americans would’ve attacked the Mohawk is, in this instance, a moot point. First blood was drawn by one of our “heroes”, so how do we root for people who elected to kill? Such conflict makes for a richer, and more interesting film. Even more fascinating is that the Americans are the ones given the majority of character development, instead of Oak, Joshua, and Calvin. Such a choice only encourages the idea that there’s no easy answer to the greater topics at hand.
I don’t want to make it seem like I didn’t like Mohawk because I genuinely enjoyed a great deal of it. The performances were fantastic across the board, especially Horn in the role of Oak, who conveys strength, grief, pain, and determination with seemingly effortless ease. Also, the costumes, props, and makeup were clearly given a great deal of attention and careful thought to ensure accuracy was maintained. And for those who are hoping that Geoghegan will pull a We Are Still Here and grace us with more intense gore, you shan’t be disappointed.
Additionally, I want to highlight composer Wojciech Golczewski and his score, which begins with an almost bombastic symphonic piece. From there, the music transitions into a more synth-based score that works surprisingly well, considering the period setting of the film.
At the end of the day, the most frustrating part of Mohawk is the incredible amount of potential that it holds. These kinds of stories need to be told, not only because they ensure that we do not forget our past but also for our need to recognize the complicated nature of history. Heroes and villains are rarely cut-and-dry and Mohawk doesn’t shy away from that. Alas, issues with pacing, cinematography, and editing cannot be ignored and sadly detract from the overall experience.
Zena’s Period Blood: Dying for a DEAD END
It can be difficult finding horror films of quality, so allow me to welcome you to your salvation from frustration. “Zena’s Period Blood” is here to guide you to the horror films that will make you say, “This is a good horror. Point blank. PERIOD.”
“Zena’s Period Blood” focuses on under-appreciated and hidden horror films.
How do you turn $900,000 into $77,000,000? Offer directors Jean-Baptiste Andrea and Fabrice Canepa the initial amount and give them the freedom to let their minds wander. In 2003, both directors accomplished this unimaginable feat with Dead End. Under the clouds of a small budget, typical poster and insubstantial trailer, most viewers forecasted one long stretch of boredom. However, 15 minutes in and I was as hooked as a pervert in a strip club with his tax refund money. In 83 minutes, the movie unravels and exposes intelligent craftsmanship with story, acting and location, introducing us to the Harrington family and their demise.
After 20 years following the same route, Frank Harrington (Ray Wise) decides to take his family down a shortcut to his in-laws home during Christmas Eve. Wife Laura (Lin Shaye) sings in the passenger seat, serving as the optimistic family unifier who is often ignored by her husband and children. Behind Frank is their oldest child Marion (Alexandra Holden), unnervingly sheltered under the arm of her soon-to-be fiancé, Brad. And forever mom’s favorite boy is Richard (Mick Cain), who rocks out to Marilyn Manson blaring in his headphones. After this brief introduction to the characters and their distinct personalities, we witness everyone fall asleep, including Frank, who refuses to let anyone else drive.
Several seconds pass before the Jeep Wagoneer veers into the opposite lane. Gradually, a honk pleads from an approaching car, startling the Harrington family and forcing Frank to fight with the wheel until he brings the Jeep to a stop. Wide-awake, the family begins to move forward, now entrapped on a new, never-ending road.
I could elaborate on so many scary details in the movie, but the never-ending road stands out the most. What makes it worse is that there are signs for a town called Marcott, with an arrow indicating the town is straight ahead. But the Harringtons never reach the town. This scares me because I believe that every human being has a mental list of things they are scared of or things they should keep an eye out for in certain situations. Unfortunately, this movie exists to expand that list. What sucks for me is that my husband likes taking back roads. Because I strive to have a happy marriage and a peaceful death, I usually fall asleep to avoid an argument and the grim reaper, both of which usually exist on these particular roads. However, I never imagined that a back road could become a never-ending road. Man that would suck!
Speaking of never-ending, the directors became devils of discomfort by never really showing the deceased’s mutilated body, leaving your brain struggling to piece together the unseen image long after the movie ends. Throughout the movie, the family and Brad are picked off one by one. We mainly suffer these devatations through the reactions of the family members that are still alive, sometimes witnessing them lift a severed ear or caress a charred hand. This movie taught me that I can still taste bile at the back of my throat when a mutilation is suggested rather than shown.
Directors Andrea and Canepa accomplished greatness in Dead End with little time and little money. It is a testament that imagination coupled with skill is the true combination to capturing a big budget feel. I hope that all the individuals behind this movie have a long, never-ending road ahead of them because they have delivered brilliance to the world. This is a good horror. Point blank. Period.
In addition to contributing to Dread Central, Zena Dixon has been writing about all things creepy and horrific for over six years at RealQueenofHorror.com. She has always loved horror films and will soon be known directing her own feature-length horror. Feel free to follow her on Twitter @LovelyZena.
Who Goes There Podcast: Ep 164 – THE CLEANSE
Wait no longer, boils and ghouls! Today is the day you’ve been waiting for; today is the day we sink our teeth into 2018’s The Cleanse! What’s that? You’ve never heard of The Cleanse?! Well, neither had we, but horror releases are slim pickings right now, so we take what we can get. At least we can all agree that we’ve been dying to see Johnny Galecki in something other than Big Bang Theory, right? No? Well, fuck. Here’s an episode about his new movie anyway. What are we even doing?
It was crazy of me to think I could help the police, but I’m going to keep researching, keep writing, there are stories that need to be told, so… here’s the Who Goes There Podcast episode 164!
If you enjoy the show, please consider joining our Patreon subscribers. For less than the cost of a beer, you get bonus content, exclusive merchandise, special giveaways, and you get to help us continue doing what we love.
The Who Goes There Podcast is available to subscribe to on iTunes right here. Not an iTunes user? You can listen on our Dread Central page. Can’t get enough? We also do that social media shit. You’ll find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Twitch, and YouTube.
GIRLS NIGHT 2 Review – A Terrifying Halloween Treat
If you love Halloween as much as I do, you probably also love horror films that take place on Halloween. French Writer/Director David Teixeira uses Halloween as the backdrop for his eerie short horror film Girls Night, which we reviewed here. The film tells the story of three friends who decide to play Bloody Mary and end up butchered by a creepy masked killer. Filmmaker Teixeira skillfully uses atmosphere and impressive cinematography to heighten the scares.
Teixeira is back with Girls Night 2 which will be released in October just in time for Halloween. The only survivor of the massacre, Jess (Marina De Sousa), is suffering from nightmares and insomnia because she was blamed for the murder of her friends. It’s a year later and Halloween and she is staying with Pierre (Vincent Conty). To calm Jess’s nerves they decide to watch a short film their friend David (David Teixeira) made, but Jess can’t stay awake. In her dreams the masked killer is back and wielding a pair of scissors. The film ends in utter confusion and a bloody mess. Is it real or is it a dream and who is the killer? You’ll have to watch the short to find out.
The performances are strong and believable and actress Marina De Sousa is remarkable as Jess. Like the original, Girls Night 2 delivers an exciting amount of intensity and panic in only around thirteen minutes. I highly suggest experiencing both of these short films while wearing headphones to really amp up the terror. Girls Night 2 is currently a semi-finalist at Los Angeles Cinefest and winner for Best Foreign Film at the $2 Dollar Film Festival. The award winning short film Girls Night is available on YouTube and you can watch the Girls Night 2 teaser trailer below.
Girls Night 2 delivers an impressive amount of intense scares worthy of a feature length film in just under thirteen minutes.
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