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Review: ‘The Curse of Audrey Earnshaw’ Screens at the Fantasia International Film Festival

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Review: 'The Curse of Audrey Earnshaw' Screens at The Fantasia International Film Festival

Witches and folk horror will always be interesting to me. The Curse of Audrey Earnshaw is about a mother and daughter living in an isolated town, descendants of Irish settlers, who left England years ago for religious freedom. Although set in 1973, the townspeople cling to their old way of life, similar to the Amish. They live as if it is the 1850’s.

The town is suffering from bad luck: crops failing, children dying from sickness, and a calf born with two heads. Maybe it is from the eclipse, seventeen years ago. Or a witch. They blame a lone woman, Agatha, living at the edge of their settlement because her farm is thriving. It’s improbable that she’s an excellent homesteader and a better farmer than them — it must be supernatural. Agatha, played by the amazing Catherine Walker, is the town’s scapegoat.

At first, the townsmen approach her respectfully to barter since she has a surplus of food. They are nearly starving, desperate, but she refuses to help out of fear. She isn’t part of their community truly; she lives on the outskirts. Later, when she passes a funeral with her cart, she unintentionally insults the family and is surrounded by them. A man slaps her and says: “everyone knows…everyone knows what you are.” What is that? A witch? A whore? A difficult woman?

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That was a big mistake, because Audrey, the child she has kept secret, is hidden in the cart, and she can hear everything said to her mother. Audrey is not afraid of the townspeople. Neither is Agatha, but she holds back though she has the power to hurt them. Why? And why would a single mother keep her child a secret? Was the child born out of wedlock? Or does the child need to be protected from the town? Or does the town need protection from…Audrey?

Audrey isn’t the type to forget a slight. She takes matters into her own hands and haunts the farms, interacting at the fringes, where the men are alone. What is she doing? Witch stuff? The men are terrified of her. One man sees her accidentally with her mother and flinches inward. Most likely, from having impure thoughts. Or is it because he detects her innate evil? He suffers terribly after seeing Audrey, and all it took was one glance.

Men have projected the seven deadly sins onto women for so long; it has become a trope. Eve ate the apple because she wanted to mate with the snake and CHEAT ADAM. Witches are the ultimate outsiders; they represent all women who defy the status quo instead of sucking up to it. You don’t even have to try to defy the status quo, just existing is enough.

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The Curse of Audrey Earnshaw is an engrossing folk horror film about the power of young women. It’s well worth watching to see Audrey turn and stare at the minister in her fur-trimmed coat, her eyes glittering in the dark. The best part of the film is Jessica Reynolds, who plays Audrey Earnshaw. She has a striking presence as a vengeful witch. The way she says “thank you” is chilling because of her self-possession. The devil isn’t real, but the dark side of human nature sure is.

The Curse of Audrey Earnshaw, written and directed by Thomas Robert Lee, is screening at the Fantasia International Film Festival. Don’t miss it!

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