Trinket Box (2023) Review
Trinket Box begins with not one but two prologues. Pre credits we watch a gloved figure (Darian Fisher, Killing Regan, Through Her Eyes) cleaning up an empty house, wiping down a counter, tossing pictures of an interracial couple into garbage bags and taking that bag, and what looks suspiciously like a pair of plastic wrapped bodies out to a van. Before leaving he puts a “For Sale” sign on the lawn.
Post credits we go to Clayton Alabama in 1936. Judith (Gracie Davis, They Got Out, Gold Digger) is in bed with Abe (Joe Anthony Gordon, Crooked Trees Gon Give Me Wings). Unfortunately, her father (Barry Ratcliffe, Elvis From Outer Space, Trailer Park of Terror) catches them and is infuriated, not only is his daughter having sex, she’s doing it with a black man.
The only thing that saves Abe from being beaten to death by Judith’s father and brothers is her father dying of a heart attack in front of them. Her younger sister sees all of this and once night falls sneaks downstairs and takes a necklace from an oddly decorated jewelry box.
This was my first problem with Trinket Box. I had a hard time believing that, in 1930s Alabama, a girl would sneak her boyfriend into the house for sex. I had an even harder time believing she’d sneak a black man in knowing what would happen if they were caught. There were way too many other options for a place to sneak off to that were less risky.
In the present Ava (Augie Duke, Moon Garden, Spring) and her husband Mike (Acorye White, The Seventh Day, Point Man) have just moved into their new house. They’re barely moved in when an elderly neighbour Mrs. Davis (Sandra Ellis Lafferty, Lansky, The Prophecy) knocks on the door and enquires if Ava needs her to call the police about “that dark fellow” who just left. When she hears he’s her husband she quickly changes the subject and offers Ava a housewarming present, a necklace in an oddly carved box.
And here’s my second problem with Trinket Box. After her comment about calling the police, who wouldn’t have slammed the door on the old hag, let alone accept a gift from her?
As well as starring in Trinket Box, Acorye White co-directed it with Patrycja Kepa and the two of them co-wrote it with Felipe Cisneros (One and the Same, Not My Blood). It’s obvious they have things they want to say about racism and the acceptance, or lack thereof in certain segments of the population, of mixed race relationships. Unfortunately, they’ve hitched a rather familiar cursed item story onto a heavy handed drama with some serious logic gaps.
The plot proceeds as you might expect. Ava starts wearing the necklace and her personality begins to change for the worse. She also occasionally sees or thinks she sees, things lurking in the dark. The problem is, there’s very little spookiness to be found, as most of the film focuses on the problems her personality shifts cause their relationship.
This could have worked if the script had cut out the prologues and gone the route of a psychological thriller. As it turns out, Ava is pregnant and if Trinket Box had tried creating mystery as to whether her issues are hormonal rather than supernatural the emphasis on drama might have worked better. Instead, the viewer knows the occult is involved and keeps waiting for the scares. But it’s not until the last fifteen minutes that there’s more than a fleeting jump scare, and even that ends all too predictably and leaves a few too many questions.
Trinket Box is, for all intents and purposes, a two character film, and Duke and White both give solid performances despite a script that really needed another draft or two. The only other role of any substance is the noxious neighbour, and Lafferty does her best to make her few scenes count. Unfortunately scenes like the one in which she refers to Mike as “boy” and Ava makes excuses for her undermine everyone’s performance.
I give the filmmakers credit for trying to do something more than a generic scare film. And I also give them credit for getting it self released into over fifty theaters. But overall it needed to decide if it was a drama or a horror film and focus on one or the other.