There’s something very interesting about The Curse of Audrey Earnshaw. From its The Witch meets The Village setup (Not a spoiler, we’re immediately told that the entire village in the film lives as if they’re in the old days, but are in reality quite recent in eras), you know that writer/director Thomas Robert Lee has some tricks up his sleeve.
When we meet the film’s titular character (played by Jessica Reynolds), we’re told that she’s been kept secret from the resentful village, the residents angry that for some unknown reason, are suffering from famine and illness while Audrey and her mother live prosperous. The fact that Audrey’s mother, the domineering Agatha (Catherine Walker), insists that Audrey hide in boxes during travels and interact with no one, already gives us a reason to wonder what’s coming. Lee gives us quite the setup and though the road to get there is at times a tad too slow and monotonous, what The Curse of Audrey Earnshaw does best is burrow under your skin and infect you with dread.
If the folk meets religious horror-esque film suffers from anything, it’s that we are given a bit too much right out of the gate. Not even twenty minutes in, we’re explicitly told that Audrey and Agatha are part of a coven of witches and while other films playing in the sandbox tend to let their character and intentions percolate for a bit before showing all of their cards, we know 100% what we’re expected to follow right from the get-go. After a villager whose child was lost to illness attacks Agatha, Audrey begins a quest for revenge, even though her mother’s lack of compassion is a big reason the village hates the elder Earnshaw and eventually, her child. It’s interesting, to sympathize more for the villagers than the lead characters and that adds a confusing vibe, who do you root for in this situation?
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With giving us so much too soon, when the film spends a good amount of time in the area where other films would slowly give us information, we already know upfront what is going on, so it feels slightly tedious to watch it play out in slow motion. That all said and out of the way, the writing and performances of The Curse of Audrey Earnshaw allow you as a viewer, to look past those small flaws. The ambience and tone of the film help establish dread and fear, and speaks on religious persecution in ways we don’t see very often. There are a lot of moral and ethical questions presented to the film’s viewers and while it may not be successful at illustrating those ideas as other films in the same subgenre, it does give an entertaining story that is quite enjoyable to watch. Audrey has vengeance in her eyes and Reynolds plays the role perfectly, adding nuance to what could have been a caricature of a quest for revenge. The actors make Audrey grounded in reality, even with supernatural elements pushing the story forward and it works.
A flawed yet very entertaining film, The Curse of Audrey Earnshaw is a good addition to the folkloric horror subgenre. With its performances, ambience and aesthetic, it’s easy to overlook any small nitpicks and see that if you mess with a witch, you die at the hands of a witch.
Wicked Rating: 7/10