Recent years have seen a return to giallo, mainly in independent and foreign horror cinema. The genre doesn’t always hold up because it is inherently weird and often nonsensical. For diehard admirers of Fulci and Bava, however, Turkish director Can Evrenol has become an excitingly bizarre voice in cinema. His feature debut, Baskin, blew many a mind two years ago with its hedonistic madness. Evernol returns this year with Housewife, and while it may not reach the levels of incoherent thrills that his first feature achieved, it’s an involving vision of sensory insanity.
As the title suggests, the film centers on the wife of a true crime author, tormented by a traumatic incident in her past. When a long-lost friend convinces her to attend a cult gathering, the group’s charismatic leader—a man who claims to walk through dreams—initiates her into a bizarre mental maze that may undo her. Evrenol doesn’t focus on simple psychological twists, though; his protagonist finds herself at the heart of a more dangerous, stranger force beyond her mind.
While there’s a basic structure that can be gleaned from the film, Evrenol’s script is purely based on set pieces and surreal sequences. His introduction at the Sitges screening elaborated on this—he wanted to evoke his dreams externally. Because of this, the film often does feel nonsensical. Each act focuses on plot beats connected only by the titular character and her childhood trauma. Structurally, the film doesn’t work, but that is, in a way, the core of its deadly charm. Nonsensical doesn’t mean dull or unintelligent, and in this case, it simply displays Evrenol’s weird imagination without constraint.
Like Baskin, the delights of Housewife come mainly from its captivating cinematography and synth-driven score, which lends the story vastness and fantastical texture. Evernol follows the best of giallo traditions with vivid turquoise and golden lighting schemes, with dashes of bright red thrown in during particularly odd scenes. He’s going for a sensory experience here, and he achieves that—the baroque imagery and music lull the viewer into a dream, which arguably never ends until the credits roll. The cast—particularly Clémentine Poidatz and David Sakurai—commit to their roles with strange energy, which helps maintain the illusion. It’s immersive, and while not frightening, it’s still effective.
Considering its illogical plot beats and free-wheeling structure, Housewife will not please everyone. It is far from a perfect film, but Evrenol’s vision is both consistent and wild, justifying itself through the sheer force of its expressiveness. A stronger script and more believable ending could have turned this into a phenomenon; but, as it is, the film is meant to be viewed late at night, when its dream logic will feel closer to reality. Evrenol is a fascinating voice in modern horror cinema, and here he unleashes his subconscious, which, luckily for fans of weird movies, is captivating and unsettling through its imperfections.
Movie Score: 3/5
In case you missed it, check here to read more of our coverage of the 2017 Sitges Film Festival.