THE CURSE OF AUDREY EARNSHAW introduces us to Agatha Earnshaw (Catherine Walker), a woman living in a small community plagued by dying crops. Every one of the townspeople is suffering from starvation because they can’t get anything to grow — everyone, that is, except Audrey. Agatha keeps to herself on the edge of town for a couple reasons: 1) she’s doing just fine in the food department with strong, fertile crops and 2) she’s been HIDING A DAUGHTER for the last 16 years!
Things are already tense between Agatha and literally everyone else because she won’t sell or barter with them for her food, but they really start to escalate when Agatha is transporting her daughter (hiding in a giant box) out of town to meet some “others” and runs right through the middle of a funeral for the son of Colm (Jared Abrahamson) & Bridget (Hannah Emily Anderson) which triggers a grieving Colm to assault Agatha.
And then, uh, WHOOPS. On the way back, Audrey (Jessica Reynolds) gets spotted by Bernard (Don McKellar) who is both shocked and entranced by the young girl. Agatha bribes Bernard with food to keep him from talking, but he can’t stop thinking about the mysterious teen and confesses his obsession with her to the town priest, Seamus (Sean McGinley). Seamus who urges Bernard to continue keeping Audrey a secret until he can talk with Agatha to find out why she’s been hiding her existence for years.
BUT! After that meeting with the others (HELLO HI YES, IT IS A COVEN OF WITCHES), Audrey suddenly grows bold and decides to say, “Fuck it,” rebelling against her mother by making herself known to Colm and enacting some revenge. And from there, friends, the film descends into a series of increasingly more horrifying events backed by a constant feeling of unease.
One detail that contributes to the feeling of unease is writer and director Thomas Robert Lee’s decision to set this film in 1973 — but focus it on a community that has chosen to live as if it’s 100 years earlier, without any of the modern conveniences of the 1970s. It’s a period piece within a period piece! Which is honestly kind of a mind-fuck.
In any case, that unease and mind-fuck totally worked on me, as I was on the edge of my seat for the entire film and constantly thrilled by watching Audrey do her intended “thing.” The world-building in EARNSHAW is perfection, the atmosphere is positively gorgeous, and the performances all feel very, very authentic.
This is definitely one I’ll be watching over and over again.