Slow, difficult to watch, but at times, utterly compelling, ‘Reunion’ might present itself as the slowest of burns, but with its plot dealing with hard hitting topics of abuse, psychological manipulation and infanticide I think there’s a lot here fans of character driven drama/horrors will find darkly alluring.
The plot, which opens with the description of the influence black magic has had on modern science lures viewers into thinking this film is going to be a supernatural chiller, with a pregnant protagonist, a return to an old, isolated mansion and creepy visions of a dead sibling, helping me along with that assumption; in reality, ‘Reunion’ is absolutely not that!
The film sees ‘Ellie’ return home, pregnant and clearly suffering from a range of mental health issues ranging from depression, self esteem issues and delusions. Not helped in any way by her overbearing mother we see Ellie return to finish her occult interest book. Despite being clearly traumatised by the abuse experienced in her relationship, her mother only seems to continue that torment by dredging up every cruel and disparaging memory possible from the families miserable past. As her anguish deepens Ellie begins to experience agonising pregnancy pains coupled with vivid hallucinations of her dead sister – killed in an accident involving them both when they were children. As the ‘episodes’ become more severe Ellie begins to question, is her subconscious helping her to make sense of a more nefarious reality, or is her mind unravelling.
As I’ve said, there’s little joy in ‘Reunion’ and right from the bat, if the rants of a sour mother demeaning and manipulating her already traumatised daughter doesn’t make you feel uncomfortable, then the increasing self-loathing of a pregnant woman surely will. The characters are pretty complex, on the surface, things seem relatable (albeit at the extreme end of things), but the more this film grinds on, the more and more you begin to loathe and despair alongside poor Ellie, and a feeling that there’s something far more sordid going on.
The acting is good overall, although a film as dramatized as this perhaps needed a little more consistency throughout, with the actors ironically finding their flow a little more in the more tense and reviling moments, more so than the more obvious, and dare I say cliché scenes. Where the film is consistent, however, is in its location, the old rickety house, filled with locked doors, and mysterious contents, ensuring that the accommodation is always a house, never a home. Its lavish, almost stately size and furnishings hint at better times, a reflection of the mother’s character, the locked doors and deliberate luxuries a testament to her stifling control over what she views as hers. In contrast the washed-out decor, the spartan living areas all reflect the emotional state of Ellie, everywhere there should be a level of intimacy or homeliness is just, plain. Indeed even the character of Ellie is so well presented, she’s clearly very pretty, but everything from her sullen looks, her defensive dress sense, hell, even the pregnant ‘glow’ you might expect is shown as a sweaty sheen covering her bruise skin; she can’t catch a break.
Everything about this film is dark, grimy, depressing, very dramatic, horrific even, but not quite ‘horror’.
Whilst I admit, there’s a lot to analyse in a number of ‘Reunion’s’ many, many combative scenes, there’s not a lot of horror. The film is creepy at times, I will give it that, but all in all the visions are of the more psychological thriller notion, than the supernatural.
Now, at this point, you might think me uncultured, as if every film dark in nature has to be a horror film, but here me out. This is a film, which on one hand deals really, really well with all the themes described above, and then, just when you think you got the gist of the movie, throws foetal decapitation and split nipples oozing black gunk; and don’t even get me started on the reoccurring occult themes and monologues.
There is a side of ‘Reunion’ that really tries to ensure this is a genre movie, and all in all (surprisingly) it doesn’t massively detract from the overall aesthetics of the film, despite the contrast to the atmospheric build-up. The effects in these more violent scenes are as good as the cinematography is in the rest of the movie; but overall, the films reveal – through which most of the film’s violence climaxes in – and its attempts to validate a more occult premise, just come off more confusing than conceivable.
Overall my recommendations are fairly easy. If you don’t like slow burns, this isn’t going to be for you (and I mean that!), but if you do like character heavy movies, especially those which focus on mental health you are going to get a lot out of ‘Reunion’. It is seriously heavy going and does a great job of making you feel, well, miserable and on-edge. The plot is ambitious, and just because I would have preferred a more feasible ending, doesn’t mean that you won’t make better sense of the somewhat visceral reveal.