Master is a thought-provoking horror drama with an incredibly interesting central theme, but also some narrative issues.
Taking place at a fictional New England university, Master is the story of Gail Bishop (Regina Hall) and Jasmine Moore (Zoe Renee), who navigate a world filled with racial prejudice whilst dealing with supernatural occurrences. It’s a dark story, with an initially hopeful but inevitably grave outlook that questions the institutions it represents.
The key theme is that of racism, presented through the lens of psychological and supernatural horror. Jasmine’s torment at the hands of both the seemingly supernatural and the real is quite disturbing at times, and manages to come off as persistently claustrophobic. There is a nice blend between the unexplainable and the realistic, as the film presents ghostly apparitions alongside the threatening traditional imagery of racism, such as nooses or burning crosses.
Gail’s story on the other hand deals more with suspicion and the hidden meaning behind people’s characters. It’s not as interesting as Jasmine’s and sort of ambles through the second act, but it’s not without standout moments, mainly due to Hall’s strong performance. There is also a focus on internal politicking in the young woman’s narrative, which adds yet another element to the film’s strong analysis of racial prejudice, particularly on the topic of tokenism and heritage.
The biggest issue is that the story feels aimless, with a slow second act and a rushed third. It seems to flit from scene to scene without direction, not giving the well-developed characters the moments they require to shine. This is a shame because had it focused more heavily on either of its protagonists, the result might have been a far more effective, but as it stands the horror elements in Jasmine’s story are just not quite scary enough and Gail’s tale of suspicion is a little too thin.
Overall, Master is a feature with an incredibly important message and some fantastic characters, and tackles the topic of racial prejudice with a fresh, if not always well-executed perspective.
Master is released on Amazon Prime Video on 18th March 2022.
Watch the trailer for Master here: