FrightFest film review: Still/Born
Josh Slater-Williams | On 29, Aug 2017
Director: Brandon Christensen
Cast: Christie Burke, Jesse Moss, Rebecca Olson, Michael Ironside
Watch Still/Born online in the UK: 2018
The subgenre of maternal horror gets a solid new entry from Canada in the form of Still/Born, the confident feature debut of director Brandon Christensen. There’s not a lot of innovation on display in its story (a dash of Rosemary’s Baby here, a pinch of The Babadook there), but there’s enough merit in the filmmaking itself to warrant a look.
Mary (Christie Burke, whose horror credits include a stint on SyFy’s Van Helsing series) has just given birth to her first son, Adam, but joy concerning that is overshadowed by the stillborn death of the infant’s twin brother. As a means of trying to help her postpartum depression, her husband, Jack (Jesse Moss) relocates them to a spacious new home in secluded suburbia, albeit a pricey one that means he’s having to go on a lot of business trips away to help them afford the place.
Mary quickly makes friends with a new neighbour, Rachel (Rebecca Olson), but the new surroundings and faces do little to stall a descent into depression and paranoia. The big factor: otherworldly occurrences playing with her grief over her deceased son, as well as increasing evidence that a supernatural entity wants to claim her remaining boy for its own consumption.
The trouble is that recorded evidence of the evil’s attempts on Adam’s son presents a different account to traumatised Mary’s experiences, and her own personality shifts only encourage Jack’s reading of her as having gone mad. Is the real demon at work actually a personal one, rather than a literal child-eating creature? And what’s up with the mysterious birthmark little Adam has? Also, why isn’t Michael Ironside, as Mary’s postpartum doctor, in this more? That would have been cool; can’t have enough Ironside these days.
Clocking in at a tight 87 minutes (with credits), Christensen’s film doesn’t outstay its welcome, although a couple of first act developments come across a tad rushed. And while big scares aren’t exactly plentiful (and do not deviate much from the formulaic), the craft behind them, from the camerawork and Christie Burke’s engaging central turn to a successful level of enjoyable ambiguity, means Still/Born is still/entertaining.
Still/Born will be released in early 2018 by Shudder.