GORE IN THE STORE
THE SWERVE ****
Directed by Dean Kapsalis.
Starring Azura Skye, Bryce Pinkham, Ashley Bell, Zach Rand.
Horror drama, US, 95 minutes.
Reviewed as part of the Arrow Video FrightFest: Digital Edition
Making his feature film debut, director and scriptwriter Dean Kapsalis has crafted a highly accomplished and deeply sad look at a suburban wife’s mental breakdown. THE SWERVE tells the sad tale of high school teacher Holly, wife to a constantly distracted husband and mother to two spoilt and inattentive teenage sons. Holly suffers from insomnia, to the extent that she has to take medication and to make matters worse her sister Claudia, who is Holly’s opposite in every way with her loud and selfish nature, has moved back home to her parents. After one strained family get together Holly seemingly causes a lethal road accident, an event that shatters her tenuous hold on reality and her own sanity.
What follows is a carefully paced and crafted look at what could be considered an invisible problem. Refusing to sensationalise or dress up Holly’s mental problems with a flashy visual sheen Kapsalis has instead crafted a compelling and sympathetic film that never attempts to take the easy way out. Its tone is serious throughout and darkens as it reaches its shattering ending. Casual viewers may be put off by the subject matter and its slow burn approach but for those willing to go along on Holly’s dark journey it proves itself as a film that tackles its subject matter with the respect and sympathy it deserves. It is not an easy film to watch but one that sinks its hooks into the audience, haunting them for a long time afterwards.
How well the film would do without its lead performer is also a question that may have to be considered. For years Azura Skye has popped up on the screen in supporting roles but here she is given centre stage and proves herself as an under-utilized presence who should surely be given greater recognition for her skills that she presents all too believably here. Her quiet manner hiding a beyond intense turmoil of a woman who has been taken for granted by almost every single person in her life. The only respite being the attention of a teenage pupil, played by Zach Rand who is the complete opposite of his dead eyed burgeoning psycho from Lucky McKee’s THE WOMAN, who seems to be infatuated with her. However even this grab at a human connection seems to be nothing more than a fleeting grab at happiness or any other feeling other than misery.
Realistic and believable in every single way, Azura Skye has given one of the best performances of the year, one that can stand alongside that of Morfydd Clark in this year’s SAINT MAUD, another film that tackles mental health but from a completely different angle to the one that is presented here.
Chosen as one of the closing films of this years digital FrightFest it immediately proved itself as perhaps the darkest and most serious film of the festival. Thanks to its sympathetic direction and striking lead performance it also proved itself as one of the strongest. It may not be enjoyable but it feels necessary and lingers long in the memory after viewing it, daring you to watch it again.