The Curse of Audrey Earnshaw is set in a devout religious community that, similar to The Village, exists without modern conveniences in spite of the fact it’s actually the early seventies. It’s an interesting setup, complicated by the fact that everybody who lives in this particular town is a Church of Ireland member. This, unfortunately, means a whole bunch of predominantly non-Irish actors trying their damnedest to affect a convincing brogue and mostly resorting to “Begorrah!” esque exclamations when they can’t. To all filmmakers considering casting non-Irish actors as Irish characters, take note: dropping the “G” and saying “me” instead of “my” does not an Irish accent make.
But I digress. Audrey Earnshaw concerns the titular character, the secret daughter of a local woman named Agatha (A Dark Song‘s Catherine Walker, an actual Irish person) who’s been cast out because, while the rest of the town was cursed with bad crops and even worse luck, she has flourished. Audrey and Agatha clearly love and care about each other very much, but they butt heads constantly, mostly because of Agatha’s lying and scaremongering, which is meant to protect her daughter but instead makes her resentful. Still, Audrey is very protective of her mother, even going so far as to curse a local man who wronged her. The duo plays with some kind of ritualistic magic, maybe satanic but definitely witchcraft, with the assistance of some other powerful women and naturally it only makes things worse.
There’s plenty to enjoy about Audrey Earnshaw, from the lovely, rich period styling, which kind of makes the cast look like puritans but more Gothic, to the many cleverly-deployed genre elements, including a gruesome at-home abortion. The visuals are strong, Nick Thomas’ parched cinematography capturing the harshness of the landscape juxtaposed against the angry skies, to the color palette, which looks as though it’s been stripped back to monochrome in certain key moments. There’s plenty of stuff rotting from the inside, from fruit to animals, and characters cough generous amounts of blood into their handkerchiefs, while the religious services all feel like funerals even though just one of them actually is. The gore is pretty decent, even if there isn’t enough of it.
Audrey Earnshaw‘s tone is similar to recent release The Other Lamb, compounded by the fact Reynolds looks a bit like lead Raffey Cassidy, with its expansive landscape shots and focus on supernatural female powers. The performances here aren’t quite as convincing, however, aimed somewhere between overwrought and outright hammy (Jared Abrahamson has a particularly difficult time of it). The dodgy accents don’t help, but they probably won’t bother those without an ear for what real Irish people sound like. Both Reynolds and Walker do fine work, the younger actress marking herself out as one to watch (this is only her second role ever). Hannah Emily Anderson, who’s a delight in everything in which she appears, is also great in spite of her own dodgy accent.
Considering this is only Canadian writer-director Thomas Robert Lee’s sophomore feature, after 2016’s Empyrean, certain concessions can be made for how Audrey Earnshaw builds up a consistent amount of tension only to fudge the landing when it comes to bringing everything and, indeed, everyone to a head. Still, Reynolds is so convincing in the lead role, it doesn’t matter too much that the film doesn’t really give her the big, satisfying ending she deserves. It’s an enjoyable ride regardless, overflowing with female energy and intrigue, and plenty mucky enough to justify sticking with it.
WICKED RATING: 6/10