Grimmfest 2017 – The Bride

Last up on Saturday night at Grimmfest 2017 was the UK premiere of the Russian gothic horror, The Bride.

Gothic horror films are often the most visually gorgeous of the genre, using their architecturally gothic locations and often traditional binary values of good and evil, pure and impure and light and dark to create the immensely creepy atmospheres that these films live in.

Svyatoslav Podgayevskiy’s film uses those gothic elements as you would expect. At times, the very location, the house that the majority of the film is set in, feels like a character all its own.

The opening of The Bride is nothing short of wonderful, embracing everything great about gothic films with its 19th century setting, its dim lighting, religious consequences for sinister actions and a slow, haunting pace that is enough to make you stop breathing.

It is to the film’s benefit that through supernatural occurrences, dreams or likewise, we flash back to the going’s on in this house in the 19th century. Without these, the film would have felt far too generic.

The main issue with The Bride is that it seems to deter from the things that make gothic horror so wonderful to watch and become somewhat of a jump-scare film.

That’s not to say that it is filled to the brim with unnecessary jump scares but it certainly feels that by the latter part of the second act, the promise of the eerie, slow burn kind of horror film it seemed to present towards the beginning, had gone out of the window.

The story is of a present day young, newly married couple returning to his family home. It is clear from the moment we arrive at this house that it has a shadowy past as we have already seen from the opening scene in the film exactly what kind of strange, ‘ungodly’ practices have occurred there in the past.

Being that this is an ancestral home in a liminal zone, a location between civilisation and the wilderness (think Castle Dracula or the house in Get Out), it makes sense to believe that some traditional family practices have continued. Quite how far the family are willing to go to preserve these traditions is shown throughout the film to actually a rather horrifying degree.

I can only imagine how impressive this film would have been if it had have taken a slower approach to things. That is not to say the film needed to be longer at all, just to take more time going into the horror of this house and leave us in silence as with the new bride, we wander the shadows at night. Create the tension and you have a winner.

The supernatural element is not the issue either. Ghostly presences are nearly always prevalent in gothic horror but play with obvious jump scares and the true horror is released. Films like this should keep an audience on edge instead of knowing exactly what’s coming out from every shadow.

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