Mom, I Befriended Ghosts (CFF) Is Frozen Horror Best Left for the Tundra
Title: Mom, I Befriended Ghosts
First Wide Release: TBD
Director: Sasha Voronov
Writer: Sasha Voronov
Runtime: 67 Minutes
Starring: Sasha Nikiforova, Alla Mitrofanova, Sergey Semenov
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here (Release Date TBD)
This film’s review was written after its screening in the Chattanooga Film Festival 2021.
Subjected to month after month of intense government-imposed quarantine to evade the effects of a deadly illness spread through water, a small Siberian town watches helplessly as people succumb to the powerful disease. A young girl sets out into the wilderness to find medicine for her sick mother but finds herself immersed in a world of horror as she dodges killers, creatures, and other survivors. Can she endure the brutal cold, the lurking fear of the disease, and sheer terror of assailants in the forest to save her mom? A timely Russian film about a community struggling during a biological menace, Mom, I Befriended Ghosts seeks to unnerve viewers through its quiet onslaught of horror.
Mom, I Befriended Ghosts is a muddled Russian horror film that lacks coherence, thrills, and direction.
Truthfully, there isn’t much to say about this film as it is a muddled mess of quiet Russian horror that neither knows what it is nor what it wants to say to its audience. Despite an interesting and timely premise, it lacks the substance to avoid making an engaging narrative and is devoid of the style necessary to get away without making a statement. Even the pandemic setting doesn’t add much to the film, because what are we supposed to take away from it all? It reads like a coming of age fairytale-esque film but a much simpler and less visually engaging version.
The protagonist, a young girl, is about as fully realized as the background actors shuffling around delivering boxes of supplies to locked-in townspeople. A film with such sparse dialogue can be excused from not giving us everything about its solitary hero, but it would have been nice to get something. There are some interesting moments with characters evading capture and choosing to drink the infected water, but again there’s no follow up which makes it meh in the end. You’d think with a film that depicts cannibalism, self-defense groups hunting people, and mysterious humanoid creatures in caves would be insightful or at least interesting. You’d be wrong.
It’s still impressive to me how a film that clocks in at 67 minutes feels twice as long. Restraint alone does not create tension. There has to be something compelling behind it otherwise it’s empty. It doesn’t help that the entire film’s tone is steeped in the dismal and tragic. I’m still trying to wrap my mind about what exactly went on in this film, but part of me wants to forget and move on to something better.
It’s not all bad per se, but Mom, I Befriended Ghosts has very little good. The acting is fine, there are a few well thought out sequences, and some pleasing shots of the wilderness, but that isn’t enough to distract from its meandering story and frozen pacing. Underneath, there is something cool here, but it is obstructed by the thick layer of frost and darkness that is its abysmally realized plot and a barrage of white and gray shots of snow.
With so much potential behind the film’s powerful setup, Mom, I Befriended Ghosts is sabotaged by its plodding and confused narrative. Very little of anything with any consequence happens throughout the feature and its pacing makes for an interminable watch. There’s something special buried underneath the snow here but it doesn’t shine through at all. I can’t in good conscious recommend something so uninteresting, unengaging, and poorly written, especially when there are so many stronger horror films being made. Do yourself a favor and avoid this import like the plague.
Overall Score? 3.5/10