In many ways a filmic companion piece to recent offerings Relic and Saint Maud, Sanzaru is another slow-burn horror flick that elects to focus on the relationship between carer and patient.

And when I say slow-burn I mean slow-burn, with director Xia Magnus’ tale moving at a snail’s pace for the bulk of its running time, finally picking up a bit of speed at the climax – only for things to then end pretty abruptly.

That is not to say the film is without merit though – far from it. The performances are strong, there is a real sense of dread at times and enough hints, suggestions and whispers are dropped in to keep the viewer on their toes.

The film centres on Evelyn, a Filipino nurse in Texas, carrying out her duties as live-in carer for the practically bed-bound Dena, an ‘aging matriarch’.

Dena is certainly affable enough, but suffering from dementia she is prone to trying to go for a walkabout, her body failing her, leading to falls and bruising.

More sinister though is Dena’s claims that someone is speaking to her through the walls – or, more specifically, a set of intercoms and air conditioning units they have mounted on the walls.

Also thrown into the mix is Dena’s adult son Clem (Justin Arnold), who lives in a trailer next to the family home, and Amos (Jon Viktor Corpuz), Evelyn’s cousin – a wannabe boxer who is living with his aunt in a bid to run away from family issues.

So far, so usual of sorts, but things ratchet up when Evelyn begins to uncover the truth of just what Dena’s now-departed husband used to get up to – and Mr Sanzaru of course…

Being such a glacial film the performances are king here and Aina Dumlao is wonderful as Evelyn, trying desperately to do the right thing, but also saddled with the weight of her own emotional problems regarding her late mother.

It’s a quiet performance, but one of steely determination, with Dumlao’s eyes telling the audience as much as the often sparse dialogue.

Equally impressive is Jayne Taini as Dena – at times confused, occasionally insightful – but always believable.

Arnold and Corpuz are also on form, while Magnus keeps things as subtle as necessary, but a couple of brief shock moments becoming amplified due to the softly, softly approach.

Sanzaru is a film where each character is battling their own personal demons, some literal, but the overriding problem it has is that, unlike Saint Maud’s title character, or the over-bearing atmosphere of Relic, the character of Evelyn just isn’t that interesting, despite the performance.

For that reason – and the film’s pacing issues – Sanzaru remains a film to be admired, rather than wholly recommended.

Fantasia Review: Sanzaru
3.0Overall Score
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About The Author

Simon is a journalism tutor in London, who also just happens to be a movie fanatic, with a craving for the darker side of cinema. He has written three books - on the horror films of director Bob Clark (2014), the history of the character Norman Bates (2015) and the work of British exploitation director Pete Walker (2017). He is currently working with director Richard Loncraine to explore all avenues in a bid to orchestrate the re-release of 1978 Mia Farrow chiller Full Circle