I saw Sgaawaay K'uuna ("Edge of the knife"), a Haida-language horror film late last year. Here's the trailer (not gory):
I quite enjoyed it. Here are some thoughts that don't quite rise to the level of a formal review:Sound Design
The sound design is memorable, though it drove me up the wall a couple of times. Every manmade object in the movie (it is set in the 1800s) is made of wood, and they all go clunk
. Halibut hooks clunk against floats. Paddles clunk against boats. Box lids clunk. Doors and floors clunk. Movies usually remove these kinds of random environmental noise unless they serve a specific purpose to the plot, like silverware scraping on plates to emphasize how awkward a family meal is or something. The sound designers of Sgaawaay K'uuna left all the clunks in.
On the one hand, it does do a good job of bringing to life the historical setting, which sounds
pretty different than the metal and plastic pings and pangs I hear around my home. On the other hand, a scene where people are looking in a bunch of wooden boxes for a missing item, and rifling through other wooden items in the wooden boxes was almost more than I could bear.Acting
The acting ranged from acceptable (Tyler York as Adiit'sii, the main character did pretty well - hammy, but in a reasonable horror movie "nooooooo" sort of way) to ... uh ... distracting. Not surprising: while all the actors were Haida, most were not fluent in the language.The children in particular often recite their lines staring off into space with furrowed brows and looks of intense concentration instead of looking at their conversational partners, and while you feel bad laughing at kids, it's kind of hilarious. Most of the action is carried by York, so the fumbling acting didn't detract from the storyline too much for me.
I loved that all the adults had unique tattoos. The tattoos were interesting formline designs, and also made it easy to tell all the characters apart even though they dressed similarly (often a problem for me in movies).Filming
Beautiful in a BBC documentary sort of way. Crashing waves, woodcarving, sunlight through translucent leaves, winds in the forest. Kilometers of b-roll is an odd addition to a horror movie, but it's hard to object to footage this pretty. I personally appreciated the blunting of the horror elements by shots of crabs walking on a beach or something - descriptions I'd read had not been clear that this is at least somewhat a horror movie, and I was surprised by some intense imagery. At least until my butt went numb. Running length: about two and a half hours.
The horror parts are filmed in a style that is stereotypically "horror movie", with dutch tilts and Hitchcock zooms to make things feel off-balance and paranoid. The legend the movie is based on has some different ideas on what constitutes "scary" than a movie about evil clowns and jumpscares or something, so having the camera go "hey, this thing right here is the scary thing, you can tell because we're filming it weird" was pretty helpful to sell it to me as a cultural outsider.Story
Interesting story with intriguing ideas about how monsters are made.( minor spoilers )
Overall, I'd recommend this movie. It's beautiful and interesting and scary, even if the pacing is off. And the clunks. Seriously, the clunks were the worst part. I feel like I now know what misophonia is like.