'Anguish': Film Review

Anguish still 1 - H 2015
Courtesy of Anguish Films
Creepy atmospherics fail to enliven this familiar-feeling tale.

A troubled girl is possessed by the spirit of a dead teenager in Sonny Mallhi's psychological horror film.

Never deciding whether it wants to be a psychological thriller or a possession-themed horror film, Sonny Mallhi's directorial debut does not quite succeeds as either. Although elegantly shot, powerfully acted and possessing a forbiddingly ominous atmosphere, Anguish is too exploitative for the artsy crowd and too subtle for genre fans.

The opening sequence depicts a nightmarish scenario for any parent. Teenage Lucy (Amberley Gridley) is having an argument with her mother Sarah (Karina Logue) as they're driving together. When the disgruntled Lucy impulsively jumps out of the car, she's run over by a truck and killed instantly.

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Cut to several weeks later, when teenage Tess (a very effective Ryan Simpkins) arrives in the same town with her mother Jessica (Annika Marks), her father serving in the military overseas. It's soon revealed that Tess has had emotional issues since she was very young, manifested in such behavior as repeatedly banging her head against the wall. Now being treated with heavy doses of medications and constant therapy sessions, she's hoping for a fresh start in a new environment.

Fat chance, as she begins suffering severe hallucinations after coming across a memorial to Lucy during her skateboard wanderings around town. She begins showing signs of being possessed by the ghost of the deceased teen. But is this truly a case of the supernatural or merely the delusions of an emotionally disturbed young woman?

The film threatens to lurch into Exorcist territory with the intervention of a young priest (Ryan O'Nan) who gets more than he bargained for. He starts saying a prayer in front of Tess, who quickly takes over and recites it herself before adding, "That's not going to help." She also informs him that she's recently spoken to his little brother who died long ago.

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Mallhi — a veteran producer with such horror films as The Roommate and House at the End of the Street among his credits — is more interested in probing his troubled characters' emotional states than delivering B-movie shocks. But he can't help himself from delivering an endless series of jump scares, often relying on sudden, loud sound effects to ratchet up the tension. Contrasting sharply with the generally subdued atmospherics, the device quickly proves wearisome. And, unfortunately, it's not the only thing that's wearisome about this familiar-feeling movie.  

Production: Anguish Film

Distributor: Gravitas Ventures

Director/screenwriter: Sonny Mallhi

Producers: Sonny Mellhi, Guy Danella

Executive producers: Kho Wong, Malik Bader, Deepak Bajaj, Madan Popli, Kelly Patel

Director of photography: Amanda Treyz

Production designer: David Christopher "Big" Krause

Editors: Andrew Coutts, Matt Diezel

Costume designer: Lana McAllister

Composer: James Curd

Casting: Emily Schweber

Not rated, 91 min.