Year:  2020

Director:  Matthew Goodhue

Release:  Out Now

Distributor: Prime Video

Running time: 84 minutes

Worth: $14.00
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Adam Halferty, Jessie Rabideau, Ryan Kattner, James Russo

… strong visuals, a haunting soundtrack and a central performance from Halferty that is utterly captivating.

Directed by Matthew Goodhue, Woe fits into that genre of horror wherein families would preferably tear themselves apart than get therapy (See: Hereditary, 2015’s We Are Still Here, and Pet Semetary). In this case, audiences are introduced to Charlie (Adam Halferty) and his sister Betty (Jessie Rabideau), both dealing with the one-year anniversary of their father’s suicide in their own way.

Charlie is renovating his former family home; fixing screen doors, getting rid of wasp nests and constructing something that, as he admits to his neighbour, he doesn’t know what its use is. His seemingly never-ending handiwork has seen him cut himself off from his family as he refuses to pick up an ever-ringing phone or answer the door when Betty comes a-knocking.

Betty for her part, is channelling her energies into her upcoming nuptials with fiancée Benny (Ryan Kattner), a park ranger who it appears, from his interactions with Betty’s mum, has infinite amounts of patience. This has led to him not giving up on Charlie in the way his soon-to-be wife has. In fact, Benny, for his part, has become the mediator for the siblings, the only person they will talk to about their problems with the other.

As Woe progresses, Charlie’s antisocial behaviour begins to develop into hallucinations of men in black hoods with red eyes stalking him in the house. When his estranged Uncle Peter (James Russo) re-enters his life though, Woe hints that these hallucinations are much more than tricks of the mind.

With its hauntings that follow Charlie and later an unaware Betty, Woe is a Gothic poem about how someone reacts to knowing there are mental health issues in their bloodline. It’s implied that the siblings’ father’s last days were traumatic, and for Charlie, this is an indication of what’s to come in his future. In the film’s strongest scene, Charlie allows himself to open up to Benny about this; not only worrying for himself but for his sister also. The demons in the shadows represent both this fear of the future and potentially the inescapable genetic fate that’s awaiting Charlie and Betty.

Despite being less than 90 minutes, Woe is an extremely slow burner and will likely test the patience of those looking for giddy thrills with their family drama. Additionally, Goodhue clearly never sets out to give an overt reason for everything that is happening and leaves it open to interpretation. If you’re looking for huge info dumps in the final dying minutes, then look elsewhere. Although a deliberate choice, this does mean at times that, like Charlie himself, the film keeps the audience at an arm’s distance with the potential to alienate viewers. That said, the whole thing is held together by strong visuals, a haunting soundtrack and a central performance from Halferty that is utterly captivating.