Sunday, December 20, 2020

Honourable Mention: Onus

Onus is a 2020 film by Alex Secker is nearly a folk horror film, and I say nearly because the folk horror element deserved more attention. It also has what might be described as a vampiric side that manifests in a couple of ways, as we will see. However, as this is almost trope use (bar one piece of imagery) along with mentioning vampires in passing, in a way that is allegorical, I decided that putting this under an Honourable Mention would be the proper way to deal with the film.

The film sees student nurse Anna (Daniella Faircloth) accompanying her girlfriend Izzy (Erin Leighton) to visit Izzy’s family. As the film starts Izzy is driving and Anna is nervous. Izzy dabbles in fashion and her family live in a manor house – and socially conscious Anna worries if she will fit in. Izzy declares that maybe she is right, maybe they are vampires – after all Dracula had a castle. It is designed to disarm but Anna is still concerned, she sees the socio-economic gulf between them despite Izzy further distracting by suggesting that they’ll rub her in garlic before arriving.

Daniella Faircloth as Anna

So that is our mention and it pertains directly to the allegorical use of vampire for privilege and wealth, and she is faced with that as soon as they arrive. The door is answered by new housekeeper Lucy (Shaniece Williams) – daughter of the previous housekeeper. She is put upon by the household, we come to find, especially Izzy’s mother, Elizabeth (Karen Payne). However, when Anna and Izzy arrive, Izzy expects Lucy to get her bags whereas Anna insists on helping. Once in the house Anna spots a strange drawn picture, which Izzy’s brother Vincent (Alex Pitcher) suggests is some kind of local folklore of a deity that father, David (Tony Manders), insists on keeping on display.

the deity

This is our folk horror element but whilst it is touched on briefly in visions it is never actually addressed directly, and this is where, for me, the film missed a little. It should have let us more into its own inner mythology as it certainly deserved our attention – it was possible to do this without undermining the core element of mystery. The story surrounds David being bedbound (and locked in his room). Anna is destined to be sacrificed and has been selected because she is estranged from her parents and has no real friends. This isn’t a spoiler – it is glaring from early on in the film. The sacrifice is to bring back success for the family business and health for David and the fact that the family don’t understand that, in the modern world, someone such as Anna isn’t disposable as, if only through her university or landlord, she will be missed. This is indicative of the blindness of their privilege. It is likely why, though portrayed as blinded in a vision, Lucy can see Anna’s spirit after the deed is done.

Izzy bites

As Lucy knows the rules, it seems, then we can assume that this isn’t the first time they have done this and that Lucy was warned by her mother of the ways of the family. The sacrifice itself is shown with two elements. The second is seeing a masked Izzy stabbing Anna but the first is the other reason for the mention. We see David, looking corrupt, biting at her leg then the family all on her, all looking equally corrupt, biting her. Flesh eating or blood drinking? It isn’t clear, though it is Izzy at her neck. It also isn’t clear if this represents a reality or a vision just prior to the sacrifice? However, it does suggest, even if the bites are from a vision, that the ritual is vampiric in nature.

The imdb page is here.

On Demand @ Amazon US

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