With recent shows like Waco, Cults and Extreme Belief, and Wild Wild Country captivating viewers, an especially timely viewing of the summertime-set satiric thriller The Commune: A New CULT Classic may be just the ticket for horror fans.
Written and directed by the gifted Elisabeth Fies in her feature debut, there’s a lot to like about this intriguing film. I enjoyed the satire, humor, and characters, in particular.
Actress Chauntal Lewis ably carries the film as the memorable and empathetic lead Jenny Cross.
Jenny is sent to the well-realized, isolated woodland retreat locale of the title, where her estranged father (Stuart G. Bennett) presides as the leader of a cult-like group of colorful/creepy New Age-y, hippie types whose free ideals prove to be imprisoning, rather than liberating.
Laughs give way to darker moments, with narrative twists and shades of menace culminating in the disturbing, final 15 to 20 minutes. The film is further aided with a sleek look, high production value, striking locations, and a solid score and songs.
Many effective character moments throughout the script, coupled with the perceptive performances, help ground the piece in reality. An intimate scene involving Jenny and romantic interest Puck (David Lago) felt especially honest and non-exploitative. Their transition from idealized puppy love into awkward distance was well handled. Fies also delivers nice work in her supporting performance as Jenny’s mother Cassie, with the different dimensions of the parent being revealed.
Refreshing applies both to the film and the collaborators behind it: Elisabeth Fies wearing multiple hats, sister Brenda Fies executive producing, and Lewis’s strong central performance and character. Female creative energy is readily on display here, aided by additional contributions from many women crew members (such as producer/actress Heidi Hornbacher) in key production roles.
A rewarding, unsettling getaway, I’m glad I was fortunate to watch and pay a visit to The Commune.
The Commune is available on Netflix DVD and for purchase on Amazon.