Still/Born (2017) – Film Review

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Director: Brandon Christensen
Cast: Christie Burke, Jesse Moss, Rebecca Olson
Certificate: 18

by Sarah Morgan

Micro-budget film-making isn’t a rarity and can produce some of the most inventive movies around – those behind them have to be on top of their game to get the most out of their money; they simply don’t have the resources to go for all-singing, all-dancing set-pieces.

Still/Born was clearly shot for next to nothing, and director and co-writer Brandon Christensen (who penned the screenplay with Colin Minihin) deserves plaudits for squeezing as much as he can from something that, in less skilful hands, might have simply seemed cheap, nasty and somewhat derivative.

The plot mirrors that of many horror films – somebody is terrorised in their own home by a demon – but the tension is raised several notches by making the main protagonist a woman who recently gave birth to a son, shortly before the death of his twin.

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Central character Mary could be suffering from a severe case of post-natal depression. Indeed, her husband Jack suspects that’s the case, while their doctor is convinced that is what is behind a series of delusions. She, however, is convinced that an evil force from beyond the grave wants to claim her child – in fact, we briefly see and hear it because everything is told from Mary’s point of view.

It’s only at the very end that it’s made clear to us exactly which scenario is the truth. Frankly, that’s one of the film’s few disappointments – personally I’d have preferred not to have known, or at least been left to come up with my own conclusion.

But that’s a minor niggle. For the most part Still/Born is an impressive piece of work, particularly when you consider that this is the first feature Christensen has directed; Minihin has more experience, having already been behind the Grave Encounters franchise and zombie thriller It Stains The Sands Red.

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“On the edge”

The cast will be largely unknown to viewers, but I quite like that – it gives the project almost a documentary feel thanks to the lack of baggage.

Christie Burke is on fine form as the troubled Mary. She never comes across as merely a screaming lunatic; she is clearly on the edge, but remains dedicated to keeping her beloved child safe, no matter what.

Burke is ably supported by Jesse Moss, who recently cropped up on TV in The Bletchley Circle: San Francisco, and Rebecca Olson as Rachel, the seemingly perfect neighbour.

Watch out too for a cameo from genre stalwart Michael Ironside. He’s underused here, but it’s always nice to see him action, no matter how small the role.

‘Still/Born’ is released on DVD by Matchbox Films, £7.99


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