16th Apr2018

‘Mohawk’ Review

by Andy Stewart

Stars: Kaniehtiio Horn, Ezra Buzzington, Eamon Farren, Justin Rain, Jon Huber, Robert Longstreet, Noah Segan, Ian Colletti, Sheri Foster, Jack Gwaltney, Guy Gane, David La Haye, Wayne W. Johnson | Written by Ted Geoghegan, Grady Hendrix | Directed by Ted Geoghegan

mohawk-blu

Man, looking back at it, 2015 seems like an awfully long time ago now. Donald Trump wasn’t yet installed in the White House, the alt-right, though forever bubbling away, hadn’t been emboldened into action across the globe and we, here in the UK, weren’t yet divided by the madness of Brexit.

It was a simpler time indeed.

When I look back at 2015, I think of the good things and my favourite horror film of 2015? Ted Geoghegan’s debut feature, We Are Still Here, a slow-burning, mournful homage to Italian horror cinema of the 1970’s that lifts from what has gone before, while still feeling vital and fresh.

With his follow-up, Mohawk, Geoghegan and co-writer Grady Hendrix (My Best Friend’s Exorcism, Paperbacks from Hell) look further back. All the way back to New York of 1814, to a time where the United States are engaged in war with the British, while the Mohawk people of the region attempt to stay neutral as the battle rages on around them.

It is in the midst of this chaos that we meet British soldier Joshua Pinsmail (Eamon Farren). Joshua is engaged in a very cosy love triangle (in every sense of the phrase I might add, which is admirable) with native warriors Oak (Kaniehtiio Horn) and Calvin (Justin Rain).

Following some rather misguided advice from Joshua, Calvin sets off on his own and massacres the vast majority of American soldiers at a nearby garrison which sets off a cycle of revenge that arcs back and forth between the Mohawks and the remaining soldiers.

Fans of We Are Still Here expecting more of the same might be disappointed. Gone is that creeping aura of dread and the melancholic tone. Mohawk is a ferocious, action-packed beast that replaces the supernatural threat with a real human story, one unafraid to point a finger at a shameful period in American history while highlighting the, frankly, brutal treatment of the indigenous people.

That said, there is still a strong Italian vibe at work here. One scene in particular sees a character perish in a moment that Lucio Fulci himself would be proud of. The camera glides slowly into a tight shot of a face, whose unseeing eyes send a very clear message as blood cascades from a head wound. It’s beautiful and horrifying.

The cast are a bit of a mixed bag, although our leads do a fantastic job. A real-life Mohawk, Kaniehtiio Horn is outstanding as Oak. At one moment restrained and controlled, she easily ramps up the fury in a powerful performance. More recently seen as Richard Horne in the Twin Peaks revival, Farren does a decent job here in a very different role, even if his British accent doesn’t quite cut it at times.

Also worth noting are the performances of Ezra Buzzington as incumbent Colonel (and our primary antagonist), Hezekiah Holt and Preacher’s “Arseface”, Ian Colletti as his son, Myles. Coletti’s introduction to proceedings drip with unrestrained malice while Buzzington is excellent as the cruel and bitter Colonel.

Technically, there is a lot to love here. Daringly minimalist, Mohawk deposits the action in true-to-life, geographically accurate locations. The ever-excellent Karim Hussain returns as cinematographer and uses natural light to his advantage. The film is rich and vibrant, the greens of the forest a stark contrast to the gore that taints it. On that subject, Marcus Koch and his team at Oddtopsy FX (American Guinea Pig) do a fine job with the FX. Realistic and brutal, the violence is sadly believable without ever being over-the-top.

While kudos must be paid to Geoghegan for using true native actors, dialects and locations that sell the authenticity, some locations seem a little bland and a few of the costumes struck me as a little sterile and just too clean, given the circumstances.

Ultimately, Geoghegan’s second feature is a resounding success. It is an angry and fast-paced experience and a good old-fashioned revenge flick, on all fronts. More importantly than that it is a timely reminder of a history that must not be forgotten and a warning against displaying the same kinds of hubris in the future.

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