Frightfest Review: Another Ian White August 24, 2014 Film4 Frightfest 2923 Okay, let’s not beat around the bush: for anyone lucky enough to be attending FrightFest when ‘Another’ is playing on the Discovery Screen – go and see it. Forget about all the other films in all the other rooms, ‘Another’ is (quite literally) a spellbinding experience you don’t want to miss. And if you are in any way a fan of Dario Argento’s ‘Three Mothers’ trilogy and (like me) wish ‘The Mother of Tears’ had never happened, then grab your broomstick and fly – don’t run, and certainly don’t walk – to see Jason Bognacki’s beautiful new film about witchcraft, identity and the reality of un-reality because ‘Another’ is the movie ‘Mother of Tears’ should have been. In fact, I’ll go farther than that. I’ve just written a book about witchcraft and black magic in cinema and I wish I’d seen ‘Another’ before it went to press because this film deserves its own chapter. In my humble opinion, ‘Another’ is just the smallest incantation away from completely rebooting the mythology of witches in the movies. In an enigmatic opening in a cave that looks like it could quite easily be situated at the end of the world, a baby is rescued from some kind of portentous occult ritual and held to the sky, as if being offered to the universe. Eighteen years later, that baby is all grown up into the beautiful Jordyn (Paulie Rojas) whose birthday party with boyfriend Donny (David Landry) and best friend Kym (Lillian Pennypacker) is about to be nastily interrupted by Aunt Ruth (Nancy Wolfe) who, instead of using the knife to cut the cake, announces “It’s time!” and stabs herself through the chest with it instead. From that moment on, Jordyn’s life goes into freefall. A malevolent hooded figure is stalking her, but stays just far enough on the periphery to make Jordyn wonder if this is someone real or imaginary. On the subway train, the hooded stalker steals a lock of Jordyn’s hair but when she reacts no-one is there, the subway car is empty. She rises in the middle of the night and, without changing out of the t-shirt and pants she sleeps in, walks awake but unconscious through the neon-lit streets, not knowing where she’s going, being directed towards who-knows-where by some kind of demonic who-knows-what whose appearance we only see in snatches. Jordyn wakes up in places she doesn’t recognise. Her personality shifts in a heartbeat from doe-eyed and vulnerable to savage and animalistic. When her Aunt returns from hospital and finally confesses the secret, that Jordyn is not who she thinks she is, that the sinister destiny that killed Jordyn’s mother and her mother’s mother is about to catch up with her (“Your blood is damned” she intones) the stage is elegantly set for a confrontation with an evil that is sensual, disturbing and terrifying, and which might very well devour Jordyn’s soul. This is Jason Bognacki’s first feature although he’s already got an impressive body of work behind him and his short films ‘The Red Door’ and ‘The White Face’ have received considerable acclaim at festivals in the US. In fact ‘Another’ is based on a short film he made in 2012 and it is a shame it isn’t included on Bognacki’s directors reel – it would be intriguing to see how ‘Another’ evolved from its original short-form incarnation to this finished product. There is an assurance to ‘Another’ that only comes from a writer/director who understands his subject and his characters very well, has already taken them on a long tortuous journey and knows exactly how he’s going to retell it. In fact, the experience of watching ‘Another’ is very much like being under the influence of a witch’s spell. In the early days of cinema, projecting moving images onto a screen was often considered alchemy, and many people still believe there is a close association between magic and film. The director Kenneth Anger, who was a disciple of the ‘Great Beast’ Aleister Crowley, once told Roger Ebert “Some movies can be the equivalent of mantras. They cause you to lose track of time [and when] you become disoriented magical things can happen. Magic causes changes to occur in the universe. You can mix two elements together and get an unexpected result just beyond the edge of what you realize.” Jason Bogancki has achieved that with ‘Another’. ‘Another’ is pure occult cinema, mining the lexicons of horror, giallo and fairytale and adding a shimmering catwalk gloss. If the Brothers Grimm had ever produced an issue of ‘Vogue’ it would look and read a lot like this. Bognacki also does not underestimate the intelligence of his audience. He distorts and shifts time, he lingers out-of-focus and then suddenly pulls the world into such sharp relief we can see the textures of everything. He trusts us to follow him wherever he goes. He makes ugliness beautiful, he occasionally makes what is beautiful ugly. Notice what he does near the top of the film when Jordyn and her boyfriend leave the Emergency Room, their two-shot subtly pulsing and contracting with every quiet beep of Aunt Ruth’s heart monitor. And then there’s a moment when Jordyn’s friend Kym is on the running track and sunny California freedom has rarely felt so claustrophobic and doom-laden. Infact that brief sequence, as Kym runs her laps unaware she is being watched by the raven which appears intermittently throughout the story like a coal-black omen (or an agent of the demon witch?) is a movie in itself. Also consider Bognacki’s frequent use of mirrors, reflections, the reverse lettering on the window of the Pharmacy where Jordyn works, like she is Alice through the Looking Glass. And then, after Jordyn experiences another almost-hallucinogenic time-slip, notice the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it ‘end of reel’ scrawl suggesting perhaps how Jordyn’s own life is being re-edited, her past, present and future being methodically disassembled and reassembled, the parts the demon witch doesn’t require no doubt being casually discarded on some hellish cutting room floor. ‘Another’ is heavy with metaphor but the metaphor is delivered so stylishly we never feel suffocated by it. Bognacki uses music the same way – he takes a familiar song by The Drifters and slows it down, distorts it, lets us know that trouble’s brewing, he uses a version of ‘Mockingbird’ and alters it just enough to make us uneasy – the music and metaphor of ‘Another’ are both beneath the surface and above it, always in view (and hearing) but never in conscious sight. Still, if Bognacki is casting a cinematic spell, spells only work if its ingredients are perfect. Paulie Rojas is a revelation. A fragile heroine who one moment can cower, small and afraid, inside a closet and then just as suddenly attack like a wildcat, clawing at her flatmate, spitting “Jesus didn’t want you and I didn’t have a choice” at her wheelchair bound aunt after, seconds before, sitting passively at that same woman’s knee. Other reviewers have compared Rojas’ physical similarity to a young Audrey Hepburn, and they are right on the money. But she also has Hepburn’s charisma and charm. In a difficult role, Paulie Rojas is never less than mesmerising. Similar praise can be levelled at all of Bognacki’s cast, particularly genre-favourite Maria Olsen (who made an uncredited appearance in ‘The Lords of Salem’, which this film could easily be bookended with) as the demon witch hunting Jordyn’s soul and Nancy Wolfe (‘Helter Skelter’) as Aunt Ruth, both of whom give extraordinarily brave and unselfconscious performances that could very easily have slipped from opera into melodrama but they channel their characters with consummate skill. Maria Olsen is especially impressive and chameleon-like, shapeshifting through her role as adroitly as her character shapeshifts and manipulate’s Jordyn’s destiny and looking like she’s having a lot of fun while she does it. And Lillian Pennypacker , although she has less screen time than most of the others, delivers considerable impact, particularly during an unexpected scene with Aunt Ruth. Don’t get me wrong, ‘Another’ does have a couple of visual flaws that are momentarily distracting and completely unnecessary but they aren’t enough to harm the movie. You’ll know them when you see them because for the merest second they make us feel like we’ve been dropped inside a big-screen episode of ‘Charmed’ and that’s a shame because Bognacki obviously trusts his actors very deeply, he often allows the camera to observe them without interruption, he lets them do their work (his lens fetishes Paulie Rojas in particular) and the magic he and his cast creates is already powerful enough to make any CGI additions redundant. I want to see ‘Another’ on blu-ray. I want to know how Jason Bognacki made this film as extraordinary as it is. I want to go back inside that world. ‘Another’ is absolutely sensational. Ten stars out of five.