Sitges 2017 Review: Can Evrenol’s HOUSEWIFE Is A Nightmare You Can’t Look Away From
2015 saw the release of Can Evrenol’s debut feature, BASKIN. As anyone who’s seen
the film can attest, it is one of the strangest, and most disturbing horror films in years. The film’s descent into a unique vision of hell was nothing if not memorable. In discussion of the film, you’ll hear much about grotesque creatures and shocking violence. Not enough credit has been given, however, to the technical directing ability of Evrenol, who consistently achieves hypnotic, startlingly effective visuals. In HOUSEWIFE, that visual prowess is impossible to overlook.
HOUSEWIFE is the story of Holly, who as a child lost her sister and father at the hands
of her mother, in a single harrowing night. The events have haunted her into adulthood, causing friction in her relationship, and leaving her with odd little idiosyncracies (she is, for instance, unable to sit on a toilet). Her husband is ready to start a family, and is under the impression she feels the same, yet she takes birth control pills in secret. Lead actress Clementine Poidatz gives a fantastic performance as Holly, seeming as though she’s half-lost in a waking dream, through much of the film.
The first act is a slow burn. Holly’s childhood trauma in the opening is a grimy, violent
burst of energy that makes you feel the film’s intention out of the gate. After that, the pace slows way down, and we’re left to wonder where the horror is going to come from, guessing at what sort of shape these hazy, dreamlike scenes will eventually take on. When a friend of Holly and her husband reenters their lives, having disappeared years previously to join what is almost definitely some kind of cult, a more clear direction starts to reveal itself. Momentarily.
HOUSEWIFE is not a film you should watch with an expectation. Don’t try to guess
where it’s going, because you won’t be able to. Don’t be on the lookout for clues and context, whys and wherefores. Maybe these things will reveal themselves clearly on future viewings. Maybe they won’t, and honestly, they don’t need to. The film is bizarre. Some may find fault with some of the acting, when those who are speaking English as a second language give an odd inflection on their delivery. Personally, I think it helps the tone. The narrative structure is not only nonlinear, but occasionally seemingly even non-causal. It’s impossible at times to say why characters are doing what they’re doing, why things are happening, or even if those things are really happening or are simply part of a dream.
In another film, it’s possible I’d take issue with some of these things. In HOUSEWIFE,
though, the surreal insanity is surprisingly earnest. Aesthetically, the film wears its influences on its sleeves. This is a giallo film, and that’s clear from the beginning. Sure, technically the plot elements may not fall under the rules of giallo (but to be fair, neither does SUSPIRIA), but the look of the film can’t be described any other way. It borrows from many of the Italian greats, with Argento being a clear influence, and a particular scene of eye trauma feeling downright Fulci. The movie is visually phenomenal, pulling you into its horrific dreamscape, and keeping you entranced, even well before the most memorable visuals hit the screen.
HOUSEWIFE will likely be a divisive film, as was BASKIN. It is strange, difficult to describe, and has a very particular pace. The acting, evocative of classic giallos, can feel unnatural. There are things people will fault it for, and maybe objectively I wouldn’t be able to
disagree. But it’s not a film I can review objectively. As a giallo fan, as a fan of bafflingly strange cosmic horror, as a fan of the unexplainable and of the surreal, I was sold almost immediately. And aside from all that, it’s got maybe the best ending I’ve seen all year.