Regina Hall shines in a chilling horror film that tackles racism in American academia

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Regina Hall shines in a chilling horror film that tackles racism in American academia

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In the years following the success of Jordan Peele go out, horror films and programs starring and made by people of color have become less of a novelty and more of a staple at the box office and streaming, given the critical and financial success of the 2017 Oscar-winning film. But so far, adoption of similar projects by Hollywood did not produce outstanding results. Whether it’s television shows like the unwavering Their and a handful of ham Lovecraft countrypoorly conceived films like prewar And bad hairor the 2021 reboot underdone by candy manthis onslaught of new material hasn’t quite lived up to the vast possibilities horror noire has to offer.

That’s why we like the advent of a film Master, which premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival and arriving Friday on Prime Video, is truly exciting. Mariama Diallo’s first feature film stands out as one of the most intellectually ambitious contributions to post-go out Canon of black horror again. Even discussing the film in the vicinity of Peele’s directorial debut (which I have become less impressed with over time) seems slightly simplistic, given that the comedian-turned-author did not invent the genre. And considering how many black horror directors are waiting for mainstream opportunities, it seems too early to solidify offerings of him as a lone point of reference. Diallo’s film proves this point, as it pushes the ideas of race, gender, colorism, representation and exceptionalism into cooler and more interesting places and illustrates these grim realities on screen in a way that seems less accessible or even appealing to white viewers.

The 90-minute film follows the parallel narratives of two black women in a prestigious, mostly white, New England college where they are haunted both physically and emotionally, not just by apparitions and witches, but by feelings of isolation and the weight of representation. Jasmine Moore, played by Zoe Renee, is a new student whose presence on the cold and inhospitable grounds of Ancaster College immediately runs into trouble when she is greeted by a white freshman. “We have one live!” she yells at the counselor as she approaches with her notepad. Most of the interactions we see between Jasmine and the campus whites don’t automatically make us think she’ll be stabbed to death in a dorm shower, as that first observation suggests. Instead, she experiences a version of racism that most blacks and people of color would sadly consider trivial, and there is a lack of overtly offensive caricatures to hit us in the head with their ignorance.

Even so, Diallo manages to increase the tension with each of these “random” and “microaggression” encounters. The scenes where Jasmine goes out with her white roommate Amelia (Talia Ryder) and her fellow white students are particularly uncomfortable to watch. For the most part, her white “friends” of her – if you can call them that – aren’t outright rude to her as much as they grudgingly tolerate her presence. There is also a claustrophobic scene at a party where she is surrounded by white frat boys aggressively rapping on Sheck Wes’ “Mo Bamba”, which contains several N-words. Amplifying Jasmine’s nausea about her relationships with her peers is the fear of her being the next target of a ghost, a woman named Margaret Mittell who was killed during the Salem witch trials. According to Ancaster’s lore, Margaret returns to campus on the anniversary of her death at 3:33 am to kill a hapless new student.

It seems evident, in a film that portrays the difficult connections between black women and white women, that one MasterThe main specter is a white victim of gender-based violence. The kind of white feminist who propagates the slogan “We are the granddaughters of the witches you couldn’t burn” has become her own recognizable and heavily mocked archetype in liberal politics and, more specifically, on liberal college campuses after Trump. The interplay of that story, the images of the colonial and modern witch, and the rich school setting is another fascinating and curious aspect of the film.

Meanwhile, Gail Bishop, played by Regina Hall with her usual aplomb, is handling her own internal crisis and lingering suspicions about taking a job as Ancaster’s first black landlord. While she displays a proud and enthusiastic disposition to her non-black colleagues at the beginning of the film, she experiences a growing sense of skepticism and disillusionment when she is alone staring at paintings of white, male, possibly slave owners, and as she listens to her colleagues argue. diversity in the most banal terms. However, due to her rare success story within academia, she clings to these empty notions of representation and her proverbial “seat at the table”. When Jasmine seeks Gail’s advice, as her time in Ancaster becomes more anxious, Gail feeds the student these bromides, advice that literally comes back to haunt her.

For me, the most inclusive parts of Master it’s not when we see a thin, ghostly hand appear from under a bed, a hallway bathed in red light, or when Jasmine is standing in front of a mirror alone in a bathroom. The visual techniques and sound cues intended to make the audience jump are, at times, tepid and obvious. There is an understandable trepidation in inflicting violence on the black protagonists throughout the film, especially at a time when these images are being circulated recklessly. In that way, Master it succeeds more as a psychological thriller or perhaps as a more outdated “suspense” film, as opposed to something built around visual fears. Diallo creates a more tense atmosphere by savoring the moments of question, doubt and nagging certainty about the things we can perceive but never perceive with our eyes.

Diallo creates a more tense atmosphere by savoring the moments of question, doubt and nagging certainty about the things we can perceive but never perceive with our eyes.

Talking about MasterDue to the ambiguity, there is another black woman, a professor considered for an assignment named Liv (Amber Gray), who emerges from the margins later in the film in an unexpected twist, delivering a gripping final act and perhaps providing some missing puzzle pieces. It seems risky to include a plot point that is so timely and ripped straight from the headlines. But Diallo’s “non-saying” approach with much of the film’s political commentary allows this moment to unfold in an organic and not forced way.

after all, Master creates a compelling, cerebral visual experience that stays with you later on and triggers intriguing, granular conversations, not just the awareness of the realities it describes, as many of these recent horror movies and TV shows feel designed to do.

And if it weren’t for the obvious factors that reduce this film’s odds for a serious contest for awards next year, Hall would have a strong bid for Best Actress. With her role as Gail, she proves, once again, that she is a true Hollywood chameleon with an endless well of verve and vulnerability. In recent years, it has been thrilling to watch the 51-year-old acting veteran rebound from 2018’s indie comedy Support the girls a Showtime is now canceled Black Monday to be one of the only good parts of Hulu Nine perfect strangers, and also going to co-host the Oscars later this month. Goal, ace Master remind viewers, increased visibility doesn’t always equate to the level of recognition that society grants to whites. Hopefully this performance will see a different result.

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