By MADELEINE KOESTNER
Starring Clémentine Poidatz, David Sakurai and Alicia Kapudag
Directed by Can Evrenol
Written by Can Evrenol and Cem Özüduru
Writer/director Can Evrenol proved in his first film BASKIN that he knows his references and doesn’t shy away from homage. In his new feature HOUSEWIFE (on DVD, VOD and digital platforms tomorrow), he’s working with a palette of sexy psychological thrillers and arty European horror. It opens with a scene from the past, a horrible family tragedy that changed the life of a girl named Holly and followed her into adulthood. In the present day, Holly (Clémentine Poidatz) is confined to her rural home with her husband, and she’s barely holding it together. When her estranged best friend reappears in her life, now a member of a bizarre dream cult, Holly becomes entangled with something beyond her comprehension.
Evrenol, who scripted with Cem Özüduru, tells his chaotic tale without leaning too much into camp. Instead, there’s more of a constant whisper: Things are untethering from reality. In her movement, in her speech, Holly appears to exist on some other plane. Poidatz is the film’s anchor, and her performance is daring and strange. She and much of the supporting cast speak in thickly accented English, which lends to the movie’s charm and its resemblance to mind-bending gialli of the ’70s.
From minute one, the scenario is stark, compelling and disjointed, like a memory of a Technicolor horror flick you caught on TV as a kid. This lends itself well to spending time with this traumatized woman without feeling isolated—tying in those fears from childhood, that one movie you always shy away from, even if you know in adulthood it would never cause such grief. HOUSEWIFE contains quite a bit of nudity and delves into fetish at times, but that’s part of the fun. The theme of intimacy might only be on display for the audience’s benefit, but it never feels too icky. I can’t complain about a psychotic sexy threesome when I’m enjoying it too.
The most striking thing on display in HOUSEWIFE, though, is the imagery. Much of the moody atmosphere is supplied by the colors, as the film is lit by cinematographer Tayman Tekin in neon blues and reds. The filmmakers have crafted a setting that feels like a snow globe with a nightmare happening within. We spend the first part of the movie with Holly and her memories, but once the stage is set, everything goes crazy. HOUSEWIFE really takes off when it turns into a schizophrenic haunted house, with plenty of surreal imagery and a whole lot of people getting carved up to satiate horror fans’ bloodlust.
Buried somewhere in there is a story about trauma, and there’s without a doubt a kind of Freudian thing happening regarding Holly’s relationship with her mother. But the film is more concerned with blood, guts and beauty, and that’s just fine. A bit of anguish, and a cannon blast of weird—sometimes, that’s where I want to spend my evening.