Marcus (Reshad Strik) is a director yearning for a chance to make a comeback in the film industry. He’s also prone to having visions of ghosts, which leads him to a haunted movie set in Romania. It seems that in the 1920s, a director (Eli Roth, really playing against type here) was trying to make a movie based on a gruesome local legend. However, the movie was never finished, as everyone around died horribly. Cue Marcus and a brand new crew, which unsurprisingly does not fare well either, what with people being flung from balconies and a mean case of eye-eating flies.
First, a warning to Eli Roth fans: he may be third-billed, but he’s only in the movie for a couple of minutes, never to be seen again. Ditto Shiloh Fernandez. However, Henry Thomas is worth sticking around for.
The movie has some surprisingly creepy and disturbing moments, like when a horrifying old man shows up with a goiter full of demon baby. It’s also a somewhat original idea—the folktale part, not the movie within a movie part I mean.
Unfortunately, it’s very confusing. My biggest issue is with the legend being filmed. It revolves around a woman named Chavi (Adja Hodzic) who makes a deal with the Devil that her first-born child will in turn bear him children. The kid, Matya (Zelda Williams), is vilified by the townspeople for being born with the Devil’s mark, and is subsequently tortured…as an adult. It’s also baffling in other, more spoiler-y ways.
It feels slow-paced even when gory stuff is happening, and none of the characters are particularly compelling or even all that likable. I would have been a lot more enthusiastic for a movie about the first crew that tried to film Matya’s story. Not to mention how the close-ups of Matya’s eyes are debatably a rip-off of Sadako’s eye in Ringu:
Or it’s a loving homage, or a complete coincidence. (Which I guess should be less than surprising, given that the film is a remake of a Japanese movie.) That said, I enjoyed it more than I’m letting on–it’s definitely worth a watch. Anything directed by Fruit Chan is.