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Master Review | Movie Empire

Black coed Jasmine (Zoe Renee) feels instantly uncomfortable at a prestigious American college in Ancaster, compounded by folk tales about a vengeful witch and historic student suicides in her dorm. Meanwhile, Gail Bishop (Regina Hall) becomes the college’s first black woman to take on the role of master, and black faculty member Liv Beckman (Amber Gray) seeks employment among the predominantly white staff.

“These aren’t ghosts. And it’s not supernatural. It’s America. And it’s everywhere.” If there’s one line of dialogue that encapsulates the horror at the heart of Mariama Diallo’s highly effective debut feature, this is it. It not only addresses the issues of directly masterwhich explored the intertwined experiences of three black women at a prestigious American college, but also captured the various horror subgenres it contained: ghost stories, moments of slasher-esque suspense, and social thriller commentary, all spun together into a hauntingly ambiguous concoction.

The post-Go out The boom in horror films rooted in a variety of Black experiences has peaked (Remi Weekes amazing His house), downs (the misfires prewar) and everything in between (Nia DaCosta’s flawed but intriguing candy man). Opening act, Diallo’s film — which she also wrote and draws on her own experiences at Yale — occasionally wobbles by lending a thin coat of horror to observations of racial uneasiness. But as it progresses it gets trickier and more layered, combining compelling character stories and cleverly handled genre elements in a way that gets under your skin as the credits roll.

When new student Jasmine (Zoe Renee, excellent) shows up at Ancaster College and joins a mostly white cohort who all seem to already know each other, the microaggressions begin immediately: she throws a kitchen roll to clean up her roommate’s spilled alcohol; their stories are interrupted midway by other partygoers; Your bag will be searched at the library. In addition, her dorm room, which she shares with the obnoxious Amelia (Talia Ryder), is said to have been not only cursed by a woman who was hanged in a witch trial, but also the room where, for decades, the college’s first black student died before.

Jasmine’s story overlaps with that of two other black women in Ancaster. Chief among them is Gail from Regina Hall, the first black woman to become Belleville Hall’s champion, who is experiencing her own uneasiness as she settles into her new campus residence. Servant bells still adorn the walls of the creaking house, portraits of old white masters abound, and a plague of maggots smells of plague and decay. Liv Beckman (Amber Gray) seeks tenure while also serving as Jasmine’s literature teacher.

Mariama Diallo conjures an unbearable, suffocating atmosphere of a stuffy academy that’s as frightening as any ghostly hooded figure.

These threads complement each other impressively in an emotionally knotted triangle: Jasmine’s bad grades from Liv take offense, prompting her to file a formal complaint; Gail wants to support Jasmine, but the complaint could result in Liv being denied term; Gail and Liv have both fought as black women in a mostly white room, but Gail is torn between defending her friend and placating the other faculty, who think Liv is unfit for tenure. Layered is the pinnacle of all that is well-crafted horror beats – the maggot-centric imagery feels cliche, but elsewhere there are serious hauntings, like a creepy hand crawling out from under a bed sheet to lightly pat Jasmine’s arm, or a distorted shape writhing in a hallway.

masterThe initially simple dynamic of – the white characters, particularly Jasmine’s classmates, feel caricatured in their ignorance – soon becomes more intriguingly and unexpectedly complicated, enriched by surprising narrative twists. As the relationships become more complex, so does the horror; the line between nightmarish visions and real nightmares blurs until they become indistinguishable. Diallo conjures up an unbearable, suffocating atmosphere of a stuffy academic world that’s as frightening as any ghostly hooded figure immersed in it Rosemary’s baby-inspired POV shots.

After a final act grappling with the aftermath of a grueling development, there’s a lot to think about master‘s calm, thoughtful conclusion – from the multiple meanings of its title to its resonances following back-to-back Obama and Trump presidencies. In the words of Gail: They are not ghosts. It’s America. And that’s actually a lot scarier.

Well acted, especially by Regina Hall, and directed with genuine panache and intent by Mariama Diallo, Master transcends its two-dimensional opening to become a complex, character-driven horror with a lot on its mind.

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