Welcome witches and warlocks,
Today I will be reviewing the psychological horror/thriller INSPIRATION by writer/director Jason Armstrong. To best describe the story, I will turn to the IMDB plot summary:
“When a young author returns to her horror roots, terrible things begin to happen around her.”
The opening of this feature was honestly a bit confusing as we get two seemingly unrelated scenes back to back before we jump into the story proper. The fact that one of these scenes was a flash forward in time while the other was a moment from the author’s novel did not help to make it clear exactly which thread we were to be following. Once the actual plot got underway, things became a lot clearer and, in a way, the opening two scenes seemed almost unnecessary.
Once the prelude is out of the way, the story becomes a lot stronger as we see a woman compromising her artistic integrity to relieve her own financial burden. While she may still be more well off than most, this idea of having to do something against her will makes her a more relatable character. It is the fact that she has some actual tragedy in her life that makes us empathize with her when the murders begin.
The first kill was surprising to me as I honestly did not expect the victim nor the method of his death. They pulled a skillful bait and switch that not only caught me off guard, but also turned this into a very different film than it seemed from the outset. Instead of just a run of the mill slasher movie, we are given a picture that meditates on death and the effects it can have upon a person’s psyche. Reminders of the first victim popped up from time to time leading us to question not just the nature of this feature, but also the sanity of our lead. This was the strongest part of the piece as the blurring of reality and fantasy made for a thoughtful examination of the effects of death.
Headlining this dark rumination, Emily Alatalo proves adept at capturing the many different shades written into her character. This proves to be especially important as a good portion of this feature is a one woman show; which would have quickly fallen apart without a solid central performance. The slow trudge towards madness is not an easy one to portray, but she portrays it so well that she proves a real credit to this feature.
The supporting cast is by no means bad, but not all of them are as convincing as our lead. In a way, this is not completely their fault as not nearly as many layers are written into their characters. This becomes especially clear during the finale when a few of the performances become over the top, creating a vast disparity between the subtlety that came before.
In fact, I honestly liked nearly everything about this film except for the ending as it just became a bit too cookie cutter for my tastes. Given the heady, psychological nature of the first two thirds, the approach they took in the third act was never quite as interesting as the preceding material. This is not to say that the ending ruins the entire movie, as is sometimes the case, it is just an instance where the finale is not nearly as strong as the buildup.
All in all, this is an interesting psychological study on the effects of death that does not quite stick the landing. Luckily, the lead actress gives such a great performance that she makes up for the predictable finale. Fans of HANNIBAL (2013) or HUSH (2016) will probably enjoy this picture.