By DAKOTA DAHL
Starring Siobhan Williams, Michael Eklund and Agam Darshi
Written by Susie Moloney
Directed by Robert Cuffley
Nevermine Films/Uncork’d Entertainment
When you think of Canadian horror, you tend to think of women being suffocated in rocking chairs by faceless killers or people melting into Cronenbergian grotesqueries. What you SHOULD be thinking about is the newest project from Canadian horror duo Robert Cuffley and Susie Moloney, BRIGHT HILL ROAD, which is less jump scare and more building dread. It explores heavy subjects like addiction, consequences, and morality all while being entertainingly heartbreaking.
The film opens with Marcy (Siobhan Williams, Deadly Class, Hell On Wheels) waking up from a bender. The signs seem to point to the fact that the party might be more than just your typical wild night, and more like a downward spiral that’s been going on for quite a while. After indulging in more than a copious amount of hair of the dog while on her way into work, Marcy needs to barf, which actually ends up being a slimy blessing in disguise, as it turns out that an ex-employee that Marcy had recently laid off shows up to voice his displeasure by gunning down innocent people in the office. Marcy is spared by hiding in a bathroom stall, but that doesn’t shield her from witnessing some of the carnage. It’s safe to say that BRIGHT HILL ROAD starts out really intensely by opening with an all-too-real depiction of alcoholism turning into a sadly increasingly common instance of spree killing.
Marcy, understandably, needs some time off, both to deal with murder-based trauma and her drinking problem. As is par for the course with anyone struggling with addiction, she makes grand, sweeping plans to get her life more on track without addressing the underlying issues that drive her to drink. She then sets off on a road trip to California to see her sister, drinking the whole time. After blacking out behind the wheel, she wakes in the parking lot of the titular Bright Hill Road Boarding House. She checks herself in to try and detox, something that isn’t helped by the complimentary wine provided by the house.
The house is run by the enigmatic Mrs. Inman (Agam Darshi, Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, Sanctuary) who is so aloof and weird you kind of wonder if she might be an alien since she is way too flippant about a stain on the house’s wall that can be traced to a dude being fucking shot by his wife. As you can guess, since this is a horror film, the stay at Bright Hill Road is less than pleasant for Marcy, who works through (failing) to quit drinking, the recent trauma of the shooting which may or may not be partly her fault, as well as an unaddressed childhood incident involving a fire. Oh, and father issues, ‘cuz duh.
There’s a lot of ambiguity as to what exactly is plaguing Marcy during her stay, so I won’t discuss too much of it here. I can say that a lot of what is actually horrifying about the story is that it comes from a real place. Watching Marcy pick herself up in occasional moments of clarity, only to slowly (or quickly) backslide into drunkenness is heartbreaking, and for many viewers, taps into the reality of what it’s like to watch an addict destroy themselves.
Siobhan Williams does an amazing job playing a charming yet tragic lead: someone who would probably be a lot of fun to be around if they could only get a handle on their drinking. She captures the highs and lows of trying to fight addiction well, convincingly portraying someone deluding themselves by saying they are quitting drinking while continuing to do so. It’s a tough subject that could be mishandled in less capable hands, so BRIGHT HILL ROAD is lucky to have such an adept lead at its helm.
Despite opening with a pretty high body count, the film is a slow burn after that, so don’t tune in expecting a lot of blood and guts. The film is a little more reserved, but when it does finally execute one of its rare special effects, they are satisfying and believable. The filmmakers knew their limitations, and worked expertly within them, never distracting from the narrative with distracting low budget FX. Come for the horror, stay for the depressingly real depiction of a woman tearing apart her own life with drink. BRIGHT HILL ROAD is a great little Canadian horror movie that packs a lot of punch.
BRIGHT HILL ROAD is now available on VOD from Uncork’d Entertainment.