03rd Sep2020

Frightfest 2020: ‘The Swerve’ Review

by Alain Elliott

Stars: Azura Skye, Bryce Pinkham, Ashley Bell, Zach Rand, Taen Phillips, Liam Seib, Deborah Hedwall, Dan Daily | Written and Directed by Dean Kapsalis

Holly seems to have it all: two kids, a nice house, a good job as a teacher, and a husband with an upwardly mobile career. But there are troubling signs that all is not right in her world thanks to a combination of insomnia and the disturbing dreams that result from the medication she takes for it…

It’s not an obvious choice to base your horror movie around but mental health and depression has been used in horror for many years now. From Psycho to Split to The Babadook, it’s becoming more and more common. The Swerve is the latest genre movie to tackle the subject.

Azura Skye is the perfect choice for the lead role and although it would be unfair to say she carries the movie (it has plenty of other things going for it including other good performances) but she is the best thing in it and it’s an outstanding performance. I don’t think I’ve seen a character look so accurately downtrodden and depressed and so perfectly portrayed. Those look like very real dark bags under her eyes, Skye (who horror fans might recognise from American Horror Story) is exceptional in her role as Holly. The director is very clever to use dark grey and dark tones in the scenes with Holly and the clothes she wears, which becomes even more apparent towards the end of the movie when we see her world, briefly, brighten – both literally and metaphorically. The much less experienced Bryce Pinkham plays the husband but he also puts in an excellent showing.

We see their relationship going through many things but the viewer is never quite sure what is real and what is not. An answer is never really given or needed. Are things in Holly’s head? Is she dreaming? Is it actually happening? It’s not obvious and it doesn’t have to be, this is a movie where it works better if the viewer just decides for themselves. This isn’t an easy watch. And it definitely isn’t supposed to be. Depression is a very real and very horrible thing and the filmmakers do an excellent job of portraying this. You feel the pain Holly, and some of the other characters are in.

There’s an odd choice of music, well it seems odd at first. It’s not your usual horror score and it’s not a trendy synth style score but it does work. Especially in the most hard-hitting last third of the movie. The final fifteen minutes are like a gut punch after a first hour and fifteen minutes that have been hard to watch as it is. This is certainly no Hollywood ending, far far from it.

But your eyes will be glued to the screen and you’ll be transfixed as much as you are horrified. The Swerve is a haunting and harrowing but important movie, that portrays depression as good as any genre movie I have seen before. I highly recommend it but maybe plan to watch a comedy after or go out and do something you enjoy immediately because you wont feel very happy. It zaps all of your energy and effects you like the best and most emotional movies do.

**** 4/5

The Swerve screened on Monday August 31st 2020 as part of this years Frightfest Digital Edition.

Alain’s review of The Swerve was originally posted on his blog, WightBlood.

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