‘The devil is in the detail,’ remarks one character in Matthew Goodhue’s accomplished psychological horror/thriller, and he’s right; horror is a genre that looks easy, but it takes a certain nous to make the chills land. Most genre entries settle for masks and gore, plus race and chase finales; it’s something of a novelty to see Woe, which very much feels like a quality indie drama with supernatural underpinnings. Comparisons can be made, but a huge plus here is originality; this tale of Woe feels fresh and dodges most of the expected genre clichés.
Grief is our jumping off point; Charlie (Adam Halferty) is fixing up the house of his late father, and has been for some time, but is haunted by a spectral, hooded figure. His sister Betty (Jessie Rabideau) has her suspicions about Charlie’s activities, but her Park Ranger boyfriend Benny (Ryan Kattner) seems more interested in his harmonica. Uncle Charlie (James Russo) warns Charlie about his father’s unknown legacy, but Charlie just can’t seem to stay away….
Woe is a serious film that touches on similar aspects to Ari Aster’s Hereditary; young people struggling with the legacy of the past, and their attempts to get out from under the shadow of their parents. That’s not to say that this is just a moody slow-burner; there is a confrontation, and a transformation, and this is a horror film for sure. But the careful characterisation of Charlie’s disintegration, and three-dimensional development for all the main characters makes for tense, involving scenes.; Charlie and Benny’s car trip and diner chat are particularly tense.
Goodhue has made several shorts with these actors, and it shows; Woe has far better performances than most low-budget films, and the always-great Russo is particularly memorable at the threatening, sinister uncle who seems to know what dark realm Charlie is getting into. With an unnerving sound design, and a willingness to tease the audience right up till the final scene, Woe is a strong feature debut for Goodhue and a cut above the usual horror genre clichés. If you want a fast, snarky, self-referential horror comic, steer clear, but Woe has plenty to wow the discerning horror fan.
Woe is out now on most US streaming outlets.
Thanks to Gravitas Ventures and Kamikaze Dogfight for access to this title.