Braid, the debut feature from writer-director Mitzi Peirone, is a difficult film to describe. IMDb has a go, but somehow manages to confuse the issue further:
Two wanted women decide to rob their wealthy psychotic friend who lives in the fantasy world they created as children; to take the money they have to take part in a deadly perverse game of make believe.
Huh? Fact is, the movie begins easy enough to understand, with two beautiful young women celebrating the biggest score of their lives only to be interrupted by police. They make a run for it, ending up on a train with a pervy conductor and several other odd patrons, and decide to hole up at the palatial property of their childhood friend.
Things escalate quickly upon their arrival. There are costumes, there is role-play, and nothing quite makes sense. As the story develops, it becomes harder to follow what’s actually happening. But, in the moment at least, there’s much to enjoy — particularly the flick’s often gorgeous imagery, which both startles and delights.
Braid is very pretty, arty, and offbeat. Its very first shot is of three, then unidentified, women lounging in white lace gowns in what may be a callback to The Virgin Suicides. The focus abruptly shifts to ripped jeans and too-cool Converse high-tops with scribbles on the toes. Styling is important here, with Peirone utilising changes in clothing to signal changes in attitude.
The flick has a similar vibe to the criminally underrated Thoroughbreds but it’s much more out there. For most of its run-time, Peirone leaves her central mystery unsolved, maybe even undeveloped. I can’t quite decide whether the thing is part of some overarching role-play, that it exists solely in one (or all) of the women’s heads, or if it’s just a straight psycho-chiller.
Braid‘s standout sequence is an acid-fuelled drug haze, during which the camera tilts onto its side and the screen is bathed in woozy pinks and purples. Super girly and intense, it evokes the best movie drug sequences, which stick the audience right in the midst of the madness rather than signalling themselves to death in an effort to be cool.
The three female leads (Madeline Brewer, Sarah Hay, and Imogen Waterhouse) all give it socks while looking suitably stunning. One character’s description of them as appearing “like mermaids on crack” feels particularly apt, as well as fitting in with the movie’s arch, wry, and deeply black sense of humour (“It’s terrible how they died – together and so suddenly” is one, dead-serious quip).
The female gaze is strong here, with one freaky image concerning the ladies being gagged with floor-length braids (or plaits, if you’re in Europe) particularly standing out. This is the kind of fucked up shit only a female could come up with, and it’s emblematic of why we need more women in horror. Braid consistently scratches faces, kisses mirrors, and toys with its perspective.
Sure, not all of its works. The flick is hackneyed at times, often overwrought and indulgent when it should be tighter, but it’s fascinating in its own way. It’s hard not to admire its tenacity, its audacity, its very existence, which should give us all hope that, if the future of horror is indeed female, weirdos like Peirone will be leading the way.
Braid isn’t a complete success, and it definitely leaves us with more questions than answers, but I’d take an interesting mess over a boring success any day.
WICKED RATING: 6/10
Director(s): Mitzi Peirone
Writer(s): Mitzi Peirone
Stars: Madeline Brewer, Sarah Hay, Imogen Waterhouse, Scott Cohen
Release date: TBC
Studio/ Production Co: Wandering Bard
Length: 82 minutes