With a host of credits to his name as a producer, including The Lake House and Spike Lee’s Oldboy, Sonny Mallhi makes his writing and directing debut with Anguish, opening his career behind the camera with a horror movie centred on themes of the occult and motherhood.
In a provincial American town, Tess, a girl in her early teens, is diagnosed with a Dissociative Identity Disorder that induces intense hallucinogenic episodes. Slowly, however, during these episodes Tess begins to channel the spirit of another girl, Lucinda, who has recently died in the town. Both Tess and Lucinda’s mothers have to help Tess and the spirit of Lucinda overcome these possessions.
Anguish attempts to marry both the conventions of the horror possession narrative with a drama about grief and loss. Sadly, it succeeds with neither. As a horror movie, the jump-out-your-seat shocks never produce all that much other than a small flinch, nor does the manner in which the subject is dealt with work under the skin to internalise the horror in the viewer; as a drama there is never any emotional connection with the characters, leaving the viewer with a feeling of complete flatness when the credits roll.
These failings are born out mainly from an underwhelming script – one that any horror fan with feel they have encountered too many times – and a style of editing that is too concerned with being stylish than making sure the film is well constructed and that sequences are developed coherently. There are, however, flashes of interesting ability from debutant director Sonny Mallhi: several scenes early on involve camera movement and sound design to create moments of unsettling beauty. These moments are frustratingly far too few, and, while not awful, Anguish is by and large a stale, boring and lifeless movie.
Anguish is released nationwide on 1st April 2016.
Watch the trailer for Anguish here: