Attachment and A Wounded Fawn at Tribeca at Home
In the Midnight category at Tribeca Film Festival online, two macabre films offered thrills. Both sport weird, ironic comedic elements. Attachment is a horror romance. A Wounded Fawn upturns gender horror stereotypes effectively with humor.
Steeped in Jewish folklore and the Kabbalah, the romance in Attachment unspools with the concept of love at first sight. In the long term, love as salvation also appears and becomes a theme.
Director Gabriel Bier Gislason’s film introduces Maja (Josephine Park), a has-been Danish actress, who supports herself entertaining kids in libraries. When she meets Leah (Ellie Kendrick), a young Jewish academic from London, Maja’s interest blossoms. Mutually attracted, the two women spend the night together. Quickly, their relationship moves to love and then twists strangely when Leah suffers a frightening seizure. Injured and debilitated, Leah asks Maja to continue their relationship. Maja accompanies Leah to London and moves in with her in Leah’s flat.
Love and Possession Dominate in Attachment
A twist occurs when Maja discovers Leah’s apartment is in her mother’s house which is in a Hasidic neighborhood in the heart of Stamford Hill, London. Almost immediately, their relationships changes. Maja feels uncomfortable sleeping with Leah in the apartment above Leah’s mother Chana (Sofie Gråbøl). Taciturn and disapproving, Chana doesn’t warm up to Maja’s friendliness. As Maja helps Leah heal, she spies on Chana who practices Jewish mysticism.
Chana gives Maja an amulet for protection, telling her evil spirits may attack. Leah also wears an amulet. Maja confides to Chana that she adores Leah and can’t be without her. Chana explains such adoration suffocates the one who loves and the one who receives the love. Still, showing pity for Maja, Chana seems to warm up to her.
Investigating the neighborhood, Maja meets Uncle Lev (David Dencik), Chana’s brother-in-law. From him she learns that Chana’s husband left her but Chana has mysteriously stayed in the area. In addition to filling in family details, Lev gives her a book that explains dybbuks, spells and supernatural creatures. As time progresses Maja becomes spooked by Chana, whose over-protectiveness of Leah interferes with their happiness. Additionally, Chana’s practices convince Maja that she intends to take Leah away from her. Indeed, as she watches Chana practice a spell, Maja feels that Chana threatens their relationship and life together.
Strange Occurrences Increase
Strange occurrences in the building increase as do Leah’s frightening seizures. When Chana sees the book that Lev gave her, she warns her away from seeing Lev. Telling Maja that Lev is dangerous, she takes the book. Upset, Maja can’t persuade Leah to believe her mother harbors sinister thoughts about their relationship.
One evening, during a delicious dinner together, Maja has an asthma attack. But for Leah’s quick response in getting Maja’s Epipen, her lover would have died from anaphylactic shock. When Maja investigates the dish that Chana made for them, she discovers the source of her attack: peanuts. Maja has a severe allergy, which both Chana and Leah know about. When Maja questions what happened, Leah and Chana know nothing.
This possession story rooted in Jewish folklore and mysticism investigates love’s dangers and the unity of souls and spirits. The darkness in relationships and the secrets that Chana keeps to save Leah intrigue. When the evil manifestations occur, the film’s macabre and frightening suggestiveness fascinates and compels our interest to the conclusion.
A Wounded Fawn
In A Wounded Fawn, director Travis Stevens introduces his serial killer in a novel way. After a civilized auction of an expensive Greek mythological bronze statue, we watch as the buyer of the statue is brutally murdered. The killer is encouraged by a tall monstrous figure, the embodiment of one of the figures in the bronze statue. Bathed in hazy red light, this devil watches over the brutality to an accompaniment of eerie music. The frightening tableau transfixes our anticipation and sets in motion the events to follow.
The contrast with the next scene foreshadows the ironic and scary events. Lovely Meredith (Sarah Lind) sits in a museum with her friends looking at a painting that vaguely resembles one of the versions of “The Rape of the Sabine Women.” As she tells her friends she dumped her abusive boyfriend who “walked all over her,” the picture provides an ironic backdrop to her story. Indeed, remembering the opening scene, the painting’s significance is suggestive. Happy that she’s dating again, Meredith tells her friends of her opportunity to go away for the weekend with Bruce.
An Unassuming Serial Killer
Looking unlike the serial killer in the first scene, Bruce (Josh Ruben) sports a beard, a plaid shirt and a charming demeanor. However, dangerous signs abound. He takes her to a remote getaway in the woods where the thickening darkness startles Meredith. His private home appeals to her, but shadowy figures run in the woods. Initially, Meredith questions her eyesight. On the third sighting, as Bruce attempts to make her feel comfortable, she frightens both of them when she screams that a woman is lurking outside in the dark woods.
By this point the tall monstrous demon has appeared to Bruce alone but he has warded him off. He tells the demon he will kill Meredith at the right time, after dinner. Obviously, Bruce can control his schizoid personality to a point. As Meredith suspects something, the creatures within begin to take over Bruce. Guided by the malevolent creatures, he closes in on Meredith, who packs up her belongings. She believes she has convinced Bruce to leave because of the crazy people in the woods who frighten him also. Arming himself with a unique murder weapon, Bruce attacks Meredith in a gruesome and bloody scene.
Meredith Is an Able Opponent
However, Meredith proves herself an able opponent. As the plot complications intensify, the risks become more and more deadly for Bruce and Meredith. Stevens keeps us guessing, shocked with twist upon twist until the conclusion. By the end Bruce’s actions are clarified and Meredith’s wily, uncanny responses have surprised Bruce and transform his intentions.
Both horror films in the Tribeca at Home streaming platform subvert memes and gender stereotypes cleverly. Characterized by fine performances, the realistically effected surrealism and demonology provide the horror in Arrangement and A Wounded Fawn. Both were shown on the Tribeca at Home platform.