Review: Eerie (2018)

Pat Consolacion (Bea Alonzo) in Eerie
Indie darling Mikhail Red is nothing if not ambitious. His first feature with an established production studio is also his first genre film, and he has chosen horror, one of the most difficult genres to succeed in. As the hype for this movie mounted, so did expectations. Marketed as a convent school horror, could Eerie be what Conjuring spinoff The Nun (the biggest letdown of 2018 horror) should have been?

Eerie had its world premiere at the 29th Singapore International Film Festival as a Special Presentation film in the iconic Capitol Theatre, meaning it received the glitz and glamour of a red carpet with pre-screening cocktails for invited guests and celebrities. The director and cast were invited on stage to introduce the film. 

Mikhail Red
On his decision to make a horror film, Red expressed that filmmakers always have something important to say, and social commentary can be packaged in genre films to provoke discussion. He encouraged the audience to enjoy the film, but also to dig deeper and look for its subtext. He added, “This is not your usual horror film.” Certainly some horror fans would be indignant about that statement. 

Sister Alice (Charo Santos) in Eerie
Pat Consolacion (Bea Alonzo) is a convent school counsellor with terrible work-life balance, for she works overtime not only counselling the living, but also the dead. As she investigates a murder which happened on school grounds, she is led into conflict with stern and sadistic school principal Sister Alice (Charo Santos) as she seeks to uncover the dark mystery of the school. 

Red clearly has a gift for striking imagery. With its first shot of a blindfolded statue, creepy and majestic in equal measure, Eerie effectively sets the mood for a sombre story about blind faith. A shot of the school girls doing bodyweight exercises in ultra slo-mo, watched over by a stern nun, then cuts to the girls lying inanimate on the ground, looking like dead bodies. Their synchronised workout hints at the discipline instilled in them and insisted on by Sister Alice, who spares no rod and spoils no child. The shot of them lying on the ground foreshadows the murder(s) which lie ahead. 

Unfortunately, the impressive restraint shown in the first five minutes of Eerie and the carefully chosen opening shots seem to have depleted any further holding back, and the film devolves into indulgent jump scares at the expense of plot and pacing. You could say it became your usual horror film, as it utilised every conventional horror trope. 

Creepy ghost who beckons you to follow her? Check. 
Long empty corridors at night? Check. 
Character looks into the mirror and sees a horrifying hallucination? Check. 
An “oh no my flashlight won’t work, let me use matches instead” scene? Check. 

There were probably 6 or 7 jump scares within the first half an hour. Some audience members left the theatre. Many covered their ears because the film became as one-note as the sound design, and that is meant literally. Eerie was so EEEEEEErie that every scare was punctuated with the same high-pitched (and so loud) note, as if attempting a Pavlovian tactic to condition the audience into knowing when to be scared. At first the jump scares were met with excited twittering from an audience settling in for the ride, but as they grew more numerous and—worse—predictable, the audience became silent and numb. Even the dedicated performances of the cast and decent, if slow-moving, plot were unable to revive any investment from the audience.

And what of the plot, the promised subtext of social commentary? Those are big shoes to fill for such a cookie-cutter horror film. Cookie-cutter really isn’t criticism, because many horror tropes are well-loved by fans, and many horror films gleefully partake in them. But Eerie is far too serious and self-conscious to really afford the audience any fun at all, and the scariest thing about it is how even its scares start to feel like extraneous boring filler. 

It's still better than The Nun though.

Written by Jacqueline Lee

Jacqueline writes bite-sized reviews encompassing all genres of films on Instagram at @filmage. She was a part of the SGIFF Youth Jury in 2015. She likes cats and Creepypasta.
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