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Matriarch (2018) Review

Scotland has been the setting for many genre films over the years, though there haven’t been that many recently. Lawrie Brewster’s Lord Of Tears and The Unkindness of Ravens, along with Dark Highlands and Dark Sense, are about all that come to mind. Now we have one more, writer/director Scott Vickers’s Matriarch. Shot in 12 days for a budget of just over $50,000 in mostly one location, a farm outside of Glasgow.

Pregnant Rachel (Charlie Blackwood) and her husband Matt (Scott Vickers) are out for a drive in the Scottish countryside when they hit a fallen tree. They manage to find help at a farm owned by the Fairbains, Bob (Alan Cuthbert), Agnes (Julie Hannan) and their children. Rachel recognizes one of them as a young girl whose family went missing the year before. They need to get out before Rachel’s unborn child is added to the clan. But that’s not going to be easy.

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I half expected Matriarch to be a Highland version of Inside, but it doesn’t go in that direction. Rachel gives birth fairly early in the going and the film becomes a somewhat standard piece of survival horror. The Fairbains are religious fanatics, who “rescuing” children from a life of sin in the outside world. If their parents end up buried alive like Matt, well the Lord works in mysterious ways.

Despite that, Matriarch does work up a good bit of suspense. Hannan makes a chilling villain in the style of Sheila Keith. Her psychotic “sons” have their own plans for Rachel, plans that you can surely guess. It does all build to a sufficiently nasty and tense final act, but there really isn’t anything new during the majority of the film. It does try for a twist a few times, but we’ve seen them before.

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The final act of Matriarch certainly delivers. The question is whether the familiar elements of the film’s first hour, however well told, are worth sitting through to get to it. I was well enough entertained but I can imagine some folk’s attention will be wandering. Still, overall, it is a promising debut for Scott Vickers. Let’s hope he gets a chance to work with a budget that will let him step away from clichéd setups.

Lionsgate has picked up Matriarch, and it’s available on DVD and VOD. You can check its Facebook page for releases elsewhere.

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