The Unkindness of Ravens (2016)
|Title:||The Unkindness of Ravens|
The Unkindness of Ravens is the next highly anticipated film by visionaries Lawrie Brewster and Sarah Daly. Their previous effort, a film which made tidal waves through the independent horror ocean; Lord of Tears, a deep atmospheric nightmare of a film. Which paved the way for this; somewhat of an ‘unofficial sequel’ (Think Gates of Hell Trilogy from Fulci). Set in the same Universe, with different, yet similar deities, mythos and lore. Yet where Tears was primarily character driven, this piece is somewhat different. In that it’s more focused on the tormented mind of a Veteran Solider from Afghanistan, instead of a potential ‘couple’ trying to uncloud ones past.
This drives the film down a solitary road, where our protagonist, Andrew (Jamie Scott Gordon who fans will remember from LoT) is battling his own mind in the desperate hopes of ridding himself of a serve case of PTSD. There are essentially three characters in the film (additional characters are seen during flashbacks) that drive the narrative. One is Andrews counsellor, though a minimalist role it’s important as it’s the only other character that interacts with Andrew in the present, on a real life level. The other two characters being, Andrew himself, and, a disordered vision of himself. One that represents his acceptance and fate in the inevitable. As Andrew struggles to ignore his fear of Ravens, and attempts to bury the horrid images of war and death that surrounded him in his tour of duty, he becomes increasingly maddened, and in denial.
Andrew takes himself to an isolated dwelling at the request of his counsellor in an attempt to confront his fears and clear his mind. The abandoned countryside is almost virtually a powerful character in itself, the mist clings to the rolling hills as if it’s concealing something. He is, however being plagued by Ravens. He see’s them almost everywhere; and eventually begins to see black cloaked figures along the horizons. Figures that are seemingly closing in. There is something rather unique about this film in Lawries choice of lighting. The majority of the scenes involving the Demonic entities of the Raven Warriors are shown in 100% light during the day. It’s an interesting decision as a lot of the time, in an atmospheric piece such as this, it’s what we don’t see that scares us most. They are just as startling in daylight as in darkness. Seeing them in full light many times gives us plenty of time to really ingest the stunning work that went into these Demonic beings. They truly are one of the most memorable figures in recent horror film. The design, and look of these Raven Warriors is so formidable and striking that their effect doesn’t seem to waver much compared to their dimly lit scenes.
This is no easy feat to accomplish. There is one scene in particular during the day that was especially chilling; and is reminiscent almost of the Weeping Angels from Doctor Who. It’s done so wonderfully and suspensefully that you can’t help but sit up in your chair. Praise should go to Jamie too, who emits such a real fear and panic during such moments. The scenes where he is arguing with his outward manifested thoughts are a testament to his talent, which shines ever so bright for the most part, save a few stumbles. It would be great to see him get some decent recognition for this. He carries the film, mostly through body language and monologue. As there is very little conversation dialog throughout. It plays as almost a moving painting, that’s becoming more abstract as the film rolls forward.
Beautifully shot landscapes slowly become decrepit old walls and passageways. It seems as though the Raven Warriors like to totally break ones spirit before devouring the flesh, the conjured up Andrew tells himself that the flesh tastes sweeter when the soul is broken. The Ravens torture Jamie mentally for several days, not letting him leave, nor harming him physically. He is subjected to horrendous images, and violent flashbacks, which pull him to the breaking point.
Eventually he chooses to accept his fate and surrender himself to the Ravens. A broken man. He thinks this will be the end of his hell, but he finds out the Ravens are just getting started. He is taken to what can only be described as a ‘personal hell’. Where he wonders the corridors of a dilapidated structure which bares resemblance to a building he found himself in during his tour of Afghanistan. Here he bares witness to men from his Squad, and others, being subjected to crippling torture at the hands of the Ravens. These broken souls, or at least the ones that are able, attempt to give chase to Andrew, as he stumbles away he is brought to a room where the youngest of his Squad is about to be feasted upon, by the Ravens.
I do not wish to give too much more away, but I will say that this third act is raw, bloody and confronting. Pulled off with gorgeous practical effects. Andrew ends up confronting his fears for the well being of his younger comrade. Thus walking through the fire and emerging on the other side. The film leaves us with little to no say on whether or not the Raven Warriors were real, or merely Jamie’s fears and memories personified, but giving the mythos and lore behind both this, and LoT, it’s my opinion they are all too real..
The Unkindness of Ravens is a confronting film as it deals with the real life trauma of PTSD, and the effects it can all too easily have. It’s bolder and more graphic than it’s older sister LoT, but less chilling, nor does it leave on an upsetting note. The film has a number of rather large scale CGI shots, which are actually used in a way that doesn’t show the films budget. Save for one scene of a Jet fighter. It’s remarkable what the team was able to do with so little, and it’s nice they took their time during Post Production to have the film looking as great as it does. The film borrows a lot from it’s sister film, while also doing it’s own thing entirely. It’s a wonderful mash that cements the same Universe, but with more than enough life of it’s own to not seem to be a rehash. There seem to be some (very) subtle nods and homages to a few famous genre films as well. The idea of a man, alone in a ‘cabin’ confronting his madness is similar to Evil Dead, which we are all familiar with. Also, there is a prominent weapon used by one of the Raven Warriors that gets a few close ups, being a razored glove, perhaps a homage to A Nightmare on Elm Street? Overall I have been looking forward to this since I initially heard of it, and it more than delivered. It shows that; the partnership of Brewster and Daly again strike with an amazingly solid and expertly crafted film that has me wanting more Ravenous Ravens.
9.5 eye eating Ravens out of 10