The Curse of Audrey Earnshaw (2020) Vexes More Than It Hexes
Title: The Curse of Audrey Earnshaw
First Wide Release: October 6, 2020 (Digital/Streaming Platforms)
Director: Thomas Robert Lee
Writer: Thomas Robert Lee
Runtime: 93 Minutes
Starring: Jessica Reynolds, Catherine Walker, Jared Abrahamson
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
A deeply religious community is besieged by a relentless plague that is indiscriminately taking the lives of their neighbors. Meanwhile, Audrey (Jessica Reynolds), is fighting with her mother, Agatha (Catherine Walker), over how the townspeople treat her because they suspect she is a witch. For this reason, Audrey remains hidden away from the town lest they take her away. Audrey decides to take measures into her own hand, unleashing her unadulterated wrath on those who wronged Agatha. Will Audrey’s quest for vengeance be successful or will it morph into something different?
The Curse of Audrey Earnshaw is a tepid tale of witchcraft that borrows greatly from more dynamic films.
The strained relationship between mother and daughter, particularly in the way they wanted to go about life, leads me to a theory on the intention behind their story. I might be reaching here but I see it as an allegory for feminism. Filmmakers and other storytellers often use witchcraft as an allegory for abuse, or other hardships, women face throughout history. Since I can’t think of any other reason why this particular type of community and period of time was chosen to depict, I’m assuming it is of some importance. 1973 would be right in the middle of when the second wave of feminism was under way.
Audrey represents the push towards new ideas while Agatha resists, clinging to older ideals that are more familiar and comfortable to her. The breakdown of the traditional town that the witches reside near shows how society reacts to these differing views. Agatha, and eventually Audrey, are met with distrust, derision, and fear at what they represent, even Agatha with her more reserved approach to life. It’s a shame that this relationship isn’t developed further. I’m uncertain if this truly is the intention of the filmmakers, but the interpretation makes the film slightly more enjoyable, at least to me.
Unfortunately, outside of extended metaphors The Curse of Audrey Earnshaw doesn’t seem to garner that much intrigue or technical merit. The film itself is moody but it isn’t very appealing to the eyes due to the washed-out color palette that also feeds into excessive darkness. From the beginning we are treated to cheesy eye effects and by the end we’re left with plenty of unanswered questions and odd writing choices. The stakes never seem to escalate, the characters aren’t given room to naturally develop, and it all culminates into a disappointing and ambiguous ending.
Characters like Audrey and Agatha have so much potential and there clearly is some layer of depth that is begging to be explored. Audrey in particular is disappointing. We only get glimpses into what she wants, but not much about her beyond that. Her sole motivation appears to be avenging her mother’s honor– until it’s not. These two aren’t the only ones treated to this way.
Most of the players in this film just kind of fade into the background until it is their turn to be cursed, even if their attempts to solve the mystery behind the plague takes up more runtime than the witches do. Due to a severe lack of focus in relation to homing in on a main character, Director Tomas Robert Lee’s attempts to be omniscient fall flat by preventing any chances of deeper character development from manifesting.
The biggest sin that The Curse of Audrey Earnshaw commits is its tedium. After being dragged along through a story that never progresses to say anything of importance, The Curse of Audrey Earnshaw flails into a bizarre conclusion that is neither narratively intriguing nor satisfying. While trying to capture the magic of more fantastic witchcraft horror films of the past, this film fails to stand out from its peers. Overall, I wouldn’t recommend it. Bland and banal, this period piece barely conjures any meaningful scares or drama to make up for its lackluster storytelling.
Overall Score? 5/10