26th Oct2013

Frightfest 2013: ‘Soulmate’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Anna Walton, Tom Wisdom, Tanya Myers, Nick Brimble, Emma Cleasby | Written and Directed by Axelle Carolyn

Soulmate

Actress Axelle Carolyn first turned her hand to directing with the well-received short The Last Post in 2011, she followed it up with the short The Halloween Kid, which screened as part of the International Short Film Showcase at Film4 Frightfest in August 2012. Well now she returns to to the Frightfest fold for her first feature film Soulmate, which opened the 2013 Frightfest Halloweeen All-Nighter.

The film, which stars Anna Walton (who previously worked with Carolyn on The Halloween Kid and will be a familiar face in to genre fans, appearing in Hellboy 2 in 2008 and The Seasoning House in 2012) sees a woman, Audrey, retreat to a remote country cottage after attempting to commit suicide due to the sudden death of her husband. But once settled in she soon discovers her safe haven is haunted by its previous owner, and this spirit has some startling links to the nearby local community, especially the strange Zellaby family. Yet Audrey decides to remain, hoping to find comfort in the ghostly encounters she increasingly looks forward to…

Opening with a graphic suicide attempt, Soulmate is unlike any modern horror film made, or being made today. Harkening back to the classic era of the traditional ghost story of yesteryear, the film is reminiscent of the like of M.R. James ghost stories’ and the just-released on DVD, Dead of Night series. Although at the same time this is, at least as far as I’m aware, unlike anything that has come before in the genre – more romance than terror, more love story than horror.

The closest story I can think of, in filmic terms, is the Christopher Reeve starring Somewhere in Time – penned by a legend of fantasy fiction, Richard Matheson. That’s not to say the script, which was also written by Carolyn, lives up to the work of Matheson – it’s incredibly wordy, oftento the detriment of pacing and suffers from a few faux pas, which weren’t lost on the Frightfest audience! But as a first-time feature there’s much to like about his old-fashioned horror tale.

If Axelle Carolyn has learnt anything from her time working with (and for) her husband Neil Marshall, it’s to make sure you have actors than can deliver. And in Anna Walton, Carolyn has someone who can not only deliver, but hold her own – carrying the crux of the film on her back. Her performance, as the recovering Audrey, is one that generates much emotion and you cannot help feel for the character. I doubt without someone like Walton, Audrey would have been such a strong character – there was a real chance the role could have gone more into “helpless victim” territory than the strong-willed survivor Walton portrays her as.

Traditional ghost stories are few and far between these days, you’re more likely to find a ghost at the end of a camcorder than conversing with the living in most movies and so Soulmate actually feels, despite it’s traditionalism, fresh and new. There were calls at the beginning of the Frightfest screening for more female genre directors – a hot topic amongst genre fans online following the success of the Twisted Twins and their film American Mary – but I say differently. Let’s call for more GOOD genre directors which, based on Soulmate, Axelle Carolyn is most definitely one…

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