Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Nate Hood's 400 Words on Come, Said the Night (2019)

One of the first things one notices watching Andres Rovira’s Come, Said the Night is the obvious and slapdash ADR work throughout where the actors all seem to speak with theirs mouths right next to the microphone regardless of whether their characters are right in front of the camera or halfway across a field. The overall effect hearkens back to the golden age of gory Italian genre films that were shot silently and dubbed in post, giving the final product an ethereal other-worldliness reminiscent of a dream. Whether intentionally or not, this same innate surreality suffuses Come, Said the Night, a bizarre coming-of-age horror film about religion and masculine sexual tyranny.

The film follows a family of neo-pagans who worship the ancient Greek pantheon who return to a cabin in the woods named “Sanctuary” to mourn the anniversary of the death of eldest daughter Magda (Daniela Leon). During the day their father Roy (Lew Temple), a devotee of Harpocrates, god of silence, leads them in bizarre games mixing play with religious ritual: navigating a brick labyrinth, playing with pink flags, releasing helium balloons tied with Magda’s belongings into the sky so they’ll reach her in “Arcadia.” But at night Sprout (Daniela Leon), Roy’s surviving thirteen year old daughter, sees visions of a terrible Gorgon haunting the woods alongside memories of her dead sister who, in her last days, swore allegiance to Artemis, goddess of the hunt. As she delves deeper into the mysteries surrounding her visions and her father’s increasingly erratic behavior, Sprout battles with her own nascent sexuality, feeling at once joyous to be growing a woman’s hips and breasts but nervous of also receiving a woman’s hungers and anxieties.

Come, Said the Night is a very odd, very strange movie that at times feels as if Neil Green tried to make an early Yorgos Lanthimos film…and succeeded. There’s a deliberate atmosphere of calculated uncanniness, from the bizarre way characters emphasize certain words (e.g. Sprout pronouncing “papa” as “p’pa”) to the off-kilter way they cycle through emotions like malfunctioning robots. But the result is a hermetically sealed reality that occasionally transcends its awkwardness to achieve something sublime before collapsing into unintentional silliness in the last ten minutes. Come, Said the Night is undeniably flawed, but there's the hint of a purpose here and, more importantly, the fingerprints of a genuine artistic vision.

Rating: 5/10

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