The first film from Newfoundland selected in the history of Canada’s Blood in the Snow Film Festival, New Woman is a remarkable gothic horror short. It is absolutely drenched in atmosphere. The gorgeous exterior shots and wonderfully detailed interior shots belie the film’s modest budget, and the horror is of the classic, slow-reveal kind.
In director Benjamin Noah’s first narrative film, the setting is the year 1888. A title card reminds viewers that this is when Jack the Ripper stalked London’s streets, and it also informs us that it is when a woman (portrayed by Rhiannon Morgan) has crossed the Atlantic Ocean to find quieter surroundings. She has done just that, in the form of a coastal estate and mansion. While strolling in surrounding snow-covered nature, she crosses paths with a man (Stephen Oates), who she invites to dine with her at her home after his robbery attempt goes awry. As the woman’s face begins to take on hypnotic, haunting expressions during the meal, the film begins its deliberately paced unraveling of terror.
The sets and production values are truly striking. These elements and the costume design give New Woman an authentic gothic feel. Fans of Hammer Studios’ fear-fare efforts should certainly fall in love with the detail in this film, but the mood and design are so beautifully crafted that they recall bigger-budget historical dramas, too. Troy Maher’s captivating cinematography takes in every marvelous detail.
Morgan’s facial expressions are nothing less than ethereal at times. Though she has appeared in several different productions before, this is her first foray into horror, and she seems like a natural for the genre. Oates (Incredible Violence) also gives a fine turn as a man who seems to have mysteries of his own. The actors play off each other splendidly.
Noah cowrote the story with C.H. Newell, who crafted the screenplay. The story holds secrets and surprises, and the journey to the startling climax is a breathtaking one. Noah’s direction is stellar. Highly recommended for all horror fans, especially those who appreciate the fine touches of classic fright-fare cinema and a patient, dazzling ride to a film’s reveal, New Woman is currently a must-see as it continues its film festival run.
New Woman screened at Blood in the Snow Film Festival, which ran November 21–26, 2019, at the Royal Cinema in Toronto, Canada.
(4.5 / 5)