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Review: ASHES (2018)

Every family has that one relative that we’d like to forget about. In Ashes, it’s Aunt Marion (Melinda DeKay, Dolls). The black sheep of the family, she made everyone nuts. And she’s not about to let a little thing like death change that.

After her death, Aunt Marion’s ashes are sent to her rather reluctant relatives, Ellyn (Elizabeth Keener, The Chosen) and Duane (Jeremy Isaiah Earl). Also living there are Camille (Angelique Maurnae) and Melanie (Yumarie Morales) the couple’s adult daughters and Caroline (Elaine Partnow, i-Lived), Ellyn’s mother.

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The family has no idea what to do with the ashes or even where to put them. But that soon becomes the least of their problems. The family starts suffering unexplained and seemingly unconnected misfortunes. One daughter miscarries, the other has her boyfriend turn unexpectedly violent. Caroline has a stroke. And that’s just the start. A visit from Marion’s “very spacial friend” Gail (Maria Olsen, I Spit On Your Grave: Deja Vu, The Butcher) only makes things worse.

Set across the course of a week, Ashes has an odd format. Writer/director Barry Jay frames the incidents as interviews, although we’re never told with whom. The family talks and then we see the incident. It’s not found footage, but it’s not identified as recreations either. It’s an odd straddling of the fourth wall that’s equal parts effective and intrusive.

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What will also keep some viewers from fully getting into Ashes is the constant, sudden tonal shifts from horror to comedy and back. The horror is effective with some gross moments and good jumps cares. And the comedy provides some good laughs. Especially from Casey James Knight and Parker Wright as a pair of exorcists hired off of the internet. But the two never really mix, and the abrupt changes make the film feel disjointed at times.

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Despite that, I enjoyed Ashes and audiences willing to work with its unusual style should too. It’s currently available on demand and VOD from 1091 Media. There’s no word of a DVD release, but you can check the film’s website for updates.

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