Saturday 11 November 2023

Shudder Saturday: Mastemah (2022)

A tame horror film with no surprises, other than the fact that it took three people to craft the storyline, Mastemah is a huge disappointment that I have to warn others away from. Although put together with a certain amount of care and polish, it's a messy work that ultimately feels underwhelming and pointless by the time the end credits roll.

Camille Razat plays Louise, a young psychiatrist who is also trained to use hypnotherapy on her patients. Unfortunately, one of her hypnosis sessions ends in a tragedy that leaves her shaken and needing a change of environment. Moving to a small village, she soon starts to ease into helping the locals, but there's one potential patient (Théo, played by Olivier Barthélémy) who seems more troubled than the rest. He claims that he needs hypnotherapy to ease his mind and allow him to feel rested, and Louise soon starts to wonder if she's dealing with someone, or something, that could endanger her own wellbeing. She certainly starts to feel an effect on her mental health as she starts to see more of Théo.

Directed by Didier D. Daarwin, who also wrote the movie with the help of Johanne Rogoulot and Thierry Aflalou (the latter being credited with the central idea for the premise), Mastemah has the kernel of a good idea at the heart of it. In fact, the opening scene sets up an intriguing and disturbing film that is then never allowed to fully manifest into anything close to its full potential. What you get, innstead, is a flat and dreary film that shows us a lead character determined to remain annoyingly passive in situations where she should be setting boundaries and making the most of her time to rest and recover at her own pace. This isn't the first film to do this, of course, but it's more notable here because there's nothing else to distract you from the dullness and frustration of it.

Razat is okay, but seriously hampered by the script. I think I like her as a leading lady, but I would need to see her in a few better roles before I was able to make a more informed decision. Barthélémy has to spend most of his screentime simply looking brooding, which he manages to do well enough. His is the far less interesting of the two main roles, but he seems to do what is asked of him. Elsewhere, you have small supporting roles for Tibo Vandenborre, Féodor Atkine, Anaël Snoek, and one or two others, but they're never onscreen long enough to give us relief from the main focus of the film; the relationship between Louise and Théo.

This was one of the hardest reviews I have written in a while, there's really nothing that feels worth commenting on. It's not memorably awful, but it's certainly not good. I am sure there will be one or two people who end up liking this, but I'm equally sure that they will find themselves very much in the minority. Mastemah has nothing to say, nothing to impress horror fans (or even those after a dark thriller), and nothing to justify anyone wasting 100 minutes of their life on it. It's just a big pile of nothing, sadly.


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