Flee the Light, the first film from both writer Jennifer Mancini and director Alexandra Senza, is a tale of two sisters, Andra (Annie Tuma) and Delfi (Ariana Marquis, Nuptials). Andra is a psychology student focused on Ericksonian therapy and has just been accepted to a prestigious grad school. Delfi is constantly run down and sufferers from persistent visions of a woman vanishing in a burst of coloured light and smoke.
After a therapy session that seems to indicate the problems aren’t all in her mind, Delfi is referred to spiritualist. This causes a rift between the two, Delfi wants to see them, Andra insists her sister needs to see a real doctor and get medication. From here Flee the Light delivers an incredibly cryptic phone call that leads to a witch’s brew of suppressed memories, past lives and demons.
Flee the Light takes a very low-key approach to its subject. The first part of the film is more of a mystical journey than a horror film as Delfi begins to realize the real nature of her problem and, after a road trip to a place she remembers from them, what her visions actually are. And who the woman, Kata, played by musician Jane Siberry best known for her song “It Can’t Rain All the Time” from The Crow soundtrack, really is.
It’s a risky approach, one that can easily fail to draw the viewer in. Mancini and Senza keep enough happening that Flee the Light stays interesting if not exactly exciting. In a similar manner, it gives just enough clues that you can follow the story even if you don’t fully understand all of the supernatural elements at work.
It’s not until the last act, after a visit to a stranger bar where quite aptly, The Tea Party’s “Sister Awake” is playing, that Flee the Light really moves into horror territory and becomes a somewhat familiar tale of possession. CGI smoke, strange marks on the body and a glowing-eyed, pointy-toothed demon. It’s well enough handled and the CGI isn’t bad for a low-budget film. It’s enjoyable and fun, but it’s nothing we haven’t seen before.
Flee the Light succeeds where other witchy folk horror films like Hellbender failed by engaging the viewer from the start. Too many films seem to think they can get away with some bland dialogue or somebody wandering around and acting spooky. There may not be much in the way of elaborate effects, but there are things happening to draw the viewer in.
The film gets a huge boost from both of the leads who deliver excellent performances. Flee the Light has only a handful of characters and frequently Andra and/or Delfi are the only ones on screen. Thankfully Tuma and Marquis are able to convey the struggles their characters are going through. Jamar Adams Thompson is also good as Sid, whom they meet at the bar and has a connection to the events as well. Despite my initial worries about casting a non-actress, Siberry does well with the small but important role of Kata.
Cinematographer Billy Buttery (Letterkenny, Jigsaw) and sound designer Ben Leggett (Black Water, Cold Pursuit) also deserve a mention for helping to create an atmosphere that enhances the script and performances. Fellow Canadian filmmaker Danishka Esterhazy (The Banana Splits Movie, Slumber Party Massacre) gets a shout-out in the credits as well. Whatever advice she gave them obviously paid off.
Flee the Light is currently on the festival circuit and will play the Blood in the Snow Film Festival on Sunday, November 21st at 9:30 PM. You can get ticket information on their website. You can check the film company’s website and Facebook page for announcements of other showings.