29th Jun2021

‘Woe’ Review

by Jim Morazzini

Stars: Adam Halferty, Jessie Rabideau, Ryan Kattner, James Russo, DeVaughn LaBon, Jerilyn Armstrong, Russell Becker, Flora Rubenhold, Jason Tippet | Written and Directed by Matthew Goodhue

Writer/director Matthew Goodhue’s debut film Woe certainly opens on an intriguing note. An unkempt looking man, Charlie Dennistoun (Adam Halferty) walks out of the back door of an unkempt house surrounded by a swarm of flies and carrying what looks like a wrapped body. He proceeds to bury it as an old school phone rings incessantly. Can he keep our interest for the rest of the film though?

Charlie has been holed up in his father’s house since the old man killed himself by carbon monoxide poisoning in his Crown Vic. While he’s supposedly fixing the place up. He’s using that as an excuse to hide himself away from everyone. That includes his sister Betty (Jessie Rabideau) and her fiancé Ben (Ryan Kattner).

They’re trying to get a hold of him to make sure he comes to the wedding. And because Betty wants to sell the Crown Vic rather than have it sitting there as a grim reminder. But that’s far from the only grim thing about the house. Strange cowled figures with glowing eyes seem to be moving around in the dark. Are they real, or a product of Charlie’s grief stricken mind. Uncle Pete (James Russo; Cerebrum, The Possession Diaries) might know. But we’ve seen his grave, right next to his brother’s.

Woe is an odd film, it’s part horror film and part drama. That isn’t so odd in and of itself, but this is more of an arthouse style drama. Everything is cryptic and mysterious, to the point where it becomes hard to figure out just what is going on. The characters don’t talk much and when they do, they frequently talk in circles. We see things that may or may not explain some of the odd occurrences. We also see things that seem to have no explanation, or at least no good explanation.

Unfortunately, with it’s somewhat slow pacing and deliberately obscure plotting, the first hour of Woe ends up somewhere between creepy and frustrating. There are moments that sent a shiver up my back, but it was frequently replaced by annoyance that so little of it made any sense. It’s as if Goodhue was trying to create a film like Lady Usher or Mickey Reece’s Climate of the Hunter but couldn’t quite pull it off.

Once we get into the last half hour Woe picks up its pace, even if it’s still cryptic as hell. I’m still not sure what happened at the end. And at several points before the end as well. The final scenes offer a few possible hints, but nothing that approaches a definitive answer. Granted a film doesn’t always have to explain everything, but Woe felt like it left too much unexplained.

Woe does benefit from solid performances by all three leads, especially Kattner whose character tries to help Charlie get his life together and smooth things out between him and his sister. It’s the performances that keep the film grounded and give it some believability. Also watch for DeVaughn LaBon who started his career in John ‘Bud’ Cardos’ blaxploitation western Soul Soldier as Charlie’s neighbor Russ.

Even if it ultimately left me somewhat less than satisfied, Woe did hold my attention all the way through. And that is more than a lot of recent films can say. It’s certainly worth taking a chance on if it sounds interesting to you. If this doesn’t sound like your kind of film it probably won’t win you over though.

*** 3/5

Woe is out now on DVD and Digital from Gravitas Ventures and Kamikaze Dogfight.
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Review originally posted on Voices From the Balcony
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