Review: ANGUISH, Horrifying And Heartbreaking
Sonny Mallhi's directorial debut Anguish opens with Lucinda and her mom driving home. The conversation is strained, as conversations with budding teenagers tend to be. Shockingly, it is a conversation that comes to a tragic and sudden end.
We then join Tess and her mother moving into their new home. Tess' father is deployed overseas so all the parenting duties fall onto Tess' mom. Tess takes many prescriptions to help with her day. Even at her young age, she has had a lengthy history of mental challenges. As she settles into her new surroundings, though, she begins to sense that she is not alone. Is it all in Tess' head, a symptom of her mental challenges?
Or is someone on the other side trying to come back?
Mallhi's Anguish may very well be the most subtle possession film ever. While most, it not all, other possession films go for high octane scares and always try to keep you on the edge of your seat, Anguish is a very quiet and nuanced film. The possessed do not climb up the walls or vomit uncontrollably. But make no mistake, the first act, the haunting we will call it, is as scary as anything I have ever seen. It has been a while since I jumped as much as I did.
Then, after the possession takes place, it just becomes plain terrifying as the two mothers struggle to help their daughters make it through these horrific events. It becomes heartbreaking as hope rises and falls at every turn. The struggle to help and care for a child who is dealing with a mental illness is expounded upon. Now you are caring for that child who, on top of that everyday challenge, is struggling with someone or something that is trying to take her over.
Anguish is led by a strong female cast. Ryan Simpkins is tremendous as Tess. She can express so much with her eyes alone, which turns out to be key to the film's story. All of the central characters are female. Dad does not come back from overseas to save the day. The town priest has little to offer by way of help and he is not called in after the possession happens.
What you have is two mothers dealing with this event and you are sharing their heartbreak as they seek to get their daughters back. Even when Tess' father returns near the end of the film, all he contributes to the home is some stability. This was another change from the norm and good to see.
Anguish is a thrilling debut from Sonny Mallhi. Once a producer of other people's horror films, he has finally stepped behind the camera himself. The results are quietly horrifying and heartbreaking.
Review originally published during the Fantasia Film Festival in July 2015. The film opens in select theaters in the U.S. on Friday, December 18.
- Sonny Mallhi
- Sonny Mallhi
- Ryan Simpkins
- Annika Marks
- Karina Logue
- Cliff Chamberlain