The latest in a series of recent essays at the possession subgenre of ghost pictures, Anguish is all about the debatably true story of a teen girl, apparently suffering from the already-dubious dissociative identity disorder, who may in fact be being possessed by the restless spirit of another teen girl, one who died in a car accident previously.
This is the premise, essentially, for a long series of very cheap tricks of horror filmmaking; but, at the same time, those cheap tricks are rarely as expertly executed as they are in this picture. Most of the films from the recent wave of possession flicks are incredibly samey, with their black-and-silver colour palettes, self-serious exposition, and operatic finales in which whatever is left of the budget gets merrily blown in an attempt to recreate some of the old Poltergeist or Exorcist magic. Anguish’s screenplay, by first-time writer-director Sonny Mallhi, is a bit of blessed relief just for dealing with a possession by a spirit after peace, rather than yet another entity who is demonic, paranormal, or insidious. But it’s in the direction that Mallhi, previously a producer with a string of respectable but uninspiring credits (The Lake House, The Strangers, Possession, Oldboy) to his name, proves he cares, staging what I always think of as a good old-fashioned ghost story. A good old-fashioned ghost story means all the same jump scares you’d get anywhere else, but delivered with conviction and – get this – genuinely fucking terrifying. Clichés, after all, get to become clichés for a reason.
There is, of course, more to the picture than just its determination to scare audiences witless, and I can happily say I enjoyed the cinematography, the central performance by the promising and improbably-named young actress Ryan Simpkins, the mournful, lonely atmosphere and the weird country soundtrack. I was less enthralled with the story’s eventual direction, taking a turn into metaphysical nonsense the appeal of which will be, for most, severely dependent on acceptance of assorted supernatural phenomena. But, if parts of it seem rushed or forgettable, it won’t matter in a few weeks, because it’ll be the top-notch scares for which it stands out.
Anguish is now in UK cinemas, will you be checking it out? Let us know in the comment box below!