Just in time for horror season comes a new indie psychological horror film from a mother-daughter duo. Uncanny marks the directorial debut of Clara Gabrielle, who co-wrote the film with her mother Marie Laurin. Laurin plays an art therapist named ZouZou who, after experiencing a serious traumatic event, stops practicing as a therapist and chooses to focus on an art career. She moves into a new house with the hope that the change will not only help her creativity but also with handling the trauma that she faced. Little does she know that the house she has moved into has a dark secret. The more she tries to avoid dealing with her grief, the more she gets pulled into that secret. Will she be able to come to terms and move on before her inner turmoil and the house consume her?
On the surface, Uncanny may seem like just a story of a cursed house preying on an emotionally vulnerable woman but underneath the surface there is a lot to unpack. Gabriellle weaves a tale about grief, trauma, beauty ideals, and mental health into fantastical paranormal tapestry. We get glimpses of some of the past residents of the house; each one showing a different type of emotional, social, and mental struggle. Then we see how the spirit in the house helps push them over the edge. It represents either the crutch or the catalyst for its target to “give in” rather than get out. In ZouZou’s case, the crutch is her friendship with a little girl who is part of the house, which helps her avoid having to deal with the traumatic event she suffered. This avoidance strains her attempt to have a relationship, art career, or even get to know her menagerie of neighbors. I never got the feeling that the motivation of the house was malevolent but rather more like a child who wants its friends to stay awhile.
The emotional heart of the film is Marie Laurin. Her performance as ZouZou is moving and heartbreaking. She does an expert job of portraying a person who is unraveling not just because of the house’s influences but also in her refusal to seek help. She seems to ignore her own inner strength. We get to see that strength when she has to deal with a neighbor who continues to randomly show up in her house. We can see her experiences as a therapist immediately kick in and rather than be upset or scared, she remains calm when confronting the young man. The audience sees her ability to deal with others who have mental issues, while struggling to deal with her own.
There is no gore or excessive use of jump scares in Uncanny. Instead, the horror is in the downward spiral of its main character. Through excellent editing and use of lighting, there is always a feeling of uneasiness. As you near the climax of the film, the creepiness factor does increase quite a bit, culminating in a particularly disturbing dinner scene that I loved. Makeup effects, when used, are very effective and look great.
If you are looking for a scare-a-minute type of horror film, Uncanny is not going to be for you. This is multi-layered slow-burn psychological horror that will give many a lot to talk about after the credits start to roll. It is my favorite type of horror film, one that uses the genre to explore real-world issues while not being heavy handed or holding your hand to explain everything. If you are looking for horror that makes you think, this is definitely one to see.
I have been reviewing films since high school. I love discussing films with those who share my passion for them. I also do video reviews on YouTube and on my podcast.