The Awakening of Lilith, not to be confused with Lilith or Lilith, is the first feature from writer/director Steven Adam Renkovish after several shorts, one of which, Fugue, was expanded into this film. Like two other recent reviews, The Ghost Lights and I Dream of a Psychopomp, it’s a drama about grief and loss that reaches, at least to a degree, into the horror genre.
However here the horror is extremely tangential and the presentation much less straightforward. The Awakening of Lilith is much more of an art film, a cross between Repulsion and Ordinary People. It’s a tale of loss and grief spiraling into alienation and madness.
Lilith (Brittany Renée, Fugue, A Beautiful Silence) is tormented by something we’re not initially sure of. A cryptic voiceover makes it clear that something is wrong and we can infer from her looking at a picture and a flashback to her and Noah (Justin Livingston, Black Lightning, The Holy Heist) that it has something to do with him. A vicious dinner conversation with her mother (Mary Miles Kokotek, Panda Bear It, Davis) reveals that she has other issues beyond that however, something reinforced by her interaction with a bible study group and a sequence involving a literal blood orange.
The Awakening of Lilith explores this idea of the weight of grief – how some of us long to forget it the minute we feel it, the very second it shows its face, and how others almost see it as a comfort. Because grief tethers us to our loved ones for eternity, every time that we grieve for them, they are there, in some way or another.Steven Adam Renkovish
Renkovish slowly trickles out clues and hints as The Awakening of Lilith goes on, making it clear that things are not what they seem to be and Lilith’s memories may be unreliable and false. What we see of the relationship between her and Noah seems highly dysfunctional. Even in pictures, he seems to be staring off in the distance wishing he was somewhere else.
On a personal level, I found that perversely amusing as some of The Awakening of Lilith was filmed in Taylors SC. I lived there for a while in the 90s and was involved in a relationship that pretty much defined dysfunctional. Maybe the town is built on an old Native American burial ground and the area is cursed or something. Renkovish said that he hoped viewers saw a bit of themselves in the film, so he succeeded in that, if perhaps not in the way he intended.
Despite some slow moments and some dialogue that sounded a bit too melodramatic, The Awakening of Lilith is an effective look at the horrors of the mind, and at times reminded me of some of Mickey Reece’s (Climate of the Hunter, Strike, Dear Mistress, and Cure His Heart) early works in its use of dialogue.
It goes without saying that The Awakening of Lilith isn’t a film for everyone. Those looking for a conventional horror film will probably find themselves bored early in the first act. I would actually question whether it should have that tag applied to it at all as it’s much more of a dark drama.
Regardless it is a grim and disturbing look inside a troubled mind. One troubled in a way that may be much more common than you think. If you like that kind of plotting and can deal with the film’s style, The Awakening of Lilith is certainly worth seeing.
The Awakening of Lilith is currently playing festivals. You can check for screenings and announcements of a general release on the film’s Facebook page.