Honestly, when I see the word "thriller" attached to a film's description, I'm reluctant to give it a shot as it's such a generic generalization for films nowadays, but something about Scott Vickers' latest offering, Matriarch, caught my attention and my intuition told me to request a copy to review. Well, always trust your gut folks, because once again, my gut didn't lead me to a disappointing experience.
When expectant parents Rachel (Charlie Blackwood) and Matt Hopkins (Scott Vickers) become stranded in the Scottish countryside when their car has a run-in with a tree. Stumbling upon a farmhouse, miles from civilization, the couple are offered shelter by owners Bob and Agnes Fairbairn (Alan Cuthbert and Julie Hannan respectively) after the Fairbairns discover Rachel is with child. Unsettled by Agnes’ awkward infatuation with her unborn child, Rachel is reluctant to stay with the family, but ultimately agrees to stay the night. After an awkward family dinner, our pregnant protagonist come to the realization that the Fairbairn’s daughter Faith (Briony Monroe) is actually Ellie Adams, a local girl that went missing years before. So, in the early hours of the next day, the couple opt to take their chances on the road and attempt a quiet escape. That's when things take a turn for the worse as the Fairbairns have sinister plans for Rachel's brood.
Matriarch definitely took me by surprise, as I half expected another hokey addition to the so-called "pregnancy horror" sub-genre. What I got was a film steeped in atmospheric dread that carries its share of truly uncomfortable moments. Vickers wrote, directed and starred in the film, so his passion for the project is undeniable and it really shows in terms of the film's direction and character development.
The film features superb and realistic acting on all fronts with Vickers effectively doing the film a great service by casting himself in one of the lead roles. He displays a profound knack for dramatic acting and effectively communicates the trauma he suffers at the hands of the Fairbairns. Blackwood brings a tangible passion to her role, as you feel her ferocity in every scene that she fights not only for the life of her child, but her own. Hannan gives a fittingly disturbing performance as Agnes, completely selling the role of housewife meets bizarre cult leader and creating an unsettling and memorable antagonist. The remaining cast members all give solid performances in their roles as I honestly can't pick a single issue that I had with Matriarch's casting. Set among remote and beautiful pastoral vistas, Matriarch also benefits greatly from the moody and proficient cinematography of Paul Riley, adding a even more immersion to an already captivating experience.
Unfortunately, Matriarch does suffer in terms of pacing, moving at a rapid pace for the film's first half and slowing a bit for the second. The film comes out of the gates strong and struggles to keep the momentum going throughout. This isn't to say Matriarch doesn't have a thrilling conclusion, it certainly does, I just would've liked to have seen continuity in pacing throughout.
All in all, given the amount of independent films I watch (a shit ton), I most certainly appreciate this strong effort from Scott Vickers and his crew. Matriarch is head and shoulders above most low budget offerings on the market, a film that burrows into your psyche with chilling scenarios and thought-provoking moral dilemmas. I highly anticipate future projects from Vickers.