Lord of Tears just recently (a few days ago) won two awards at the 2013 Bram Stoker International Film Festival: 1) The Audience Award and 2) Best Female Lead. My congratulations go out to the production, cast, and crew. I had a feeling it was going to be good, but Lord of Tears just turned out to be incredible.
The story concerns a school teacher's, Jamie's (Euan Douglas), vague nightmares and unsettling childhood memories and his drive to uncover the mystery behind these visions at his inherited estate. Despite a warning letter from his recently deceased mother, Flora (Nancy Joy Page), he’s driven back to his childhood house, which seems to be the site of a past traumatic incident for Jamie, one he does not seem to clearly remember. An entity seemingly related to his past trauma, a tall figure with long arms, the head of an owl, Victorian clothing, and intimidating talons, manifests at times in front of Jamie. As nightmares take further hold on him, he begins to wonder if he’s gone mad. All isn’t entirely bad, though, thanks to a young, lovely lady employed in the area, Evie (Lexy Hulme), who Jamie starts feeling a romantic connection to as she aids him in uncovering the mystery behind the Baldurrock House.
It is one thing to create an exceptionally gorgeous, intellectual, and artistic horror film, but it’s another to create a scary one, and Lord of Tears excels in all of these elements.
Owing a lot to the natural landscape of the filming location in Scotland, the cinematography, by Gavin Robertson, is absolutely stunning. The surroundings of the mansion have a deep rooted mystique and beauty to them that compliments the very pleasing gothic interiors done in the classic Hammer film tradition. I was already delighted early on with the look and tone of the film, but I couldn’t help becoming ensconced in the story, written by Sarah Daly, and attached to the well thought out characters.
There’s a kind of interesting relationship between its two leads, Evie and Jamie, which has an endearing quality to it. The heavily isolated gothic mansion in the haunted Scottish Highlands is as much a character in the story as any other and makes the developing connection between these two seemingly strangers with a profound connection on the site of this mysterious estate that much more peculiar and fascinating. It really does succeed in creating a genuine romance, but of course there’s something obviously sinister lurking beneath, something not quite right, with an air of mystery and unanswered questions lingering about: What does the owl man want with Jamie, why does Jamie’s childhood friend and fellow teacher, Allen (Jamie Scott Gordon), make disturbing appearances in his nightmares, and what’s Evie’s deal?
Although the movie had already exceeded my expectations after the first half, I started wondering if the story would ultimately deliver and go beyond its established premise and into something unexpected, with my main concern being; will all that’s happening have any relevance later on? Fortunately my suspicion of the movie possibly going nowhere was put to rest, because it went somewhere, and it went somewhere good, achieving an unexpected level of excitement that broke its pleasantly somber tone. I really came to appreciate just how clever and well made all of the symbolic foreboding and foreshadowing really was. It’s essential on the second or third viewing to listen to the DVD commentary, as Brewster further exposes many brilliant subtleties that may have been missed on first viewing.
Before seeing this, I already had many glimpses of the film’s owl man from the movie poster going around online, and it gave me a preconceived notion of a type of violent monster that also acts as a cool little Lord of Tears mascot. Of course looking at those intimidating talons on the movie poster, my mind was anticipating a film with a killer creature and a high body count, in the slasher tradition. I’m actually relieved Lord of Tears didn’t turn out this way. Not that I don’t like slashers; they just tend to be formulaic and end up getting lost in the mix.
The owl man is more of an entity than a monster or creature, not particularly ambiguous but definitely enigmatic, with an agenda made more apparent at the story's end. The dialogue from the owl man, by David Schofield, is well done, conjuring a fitting dread with nihilistic and doomy verses. It really does remind me of a voice from a deep, dark oblivion. As an interesting surprise, the owl man isn’t the only antagonist, as there are a few twists along the way. Lord of Tears is also a slick little ghost story. The performance from the actor who plays a very animate ghost is an entertaining deluxe that I can always keep watching.
The writer and second unit assistant director, Sarah Daly, is also an accomplished musician, known as Metaphorest, who supplied some of the soundtrack. After watching the end credits and recalling the lyrics during the pool scene, I realized there’s a haunting essence to her voice that compliments the supernatural in the film, which in turn compliments her singing.
Lord of Tears turned out to be just the type of movie I usually gravitate towards: atmospheric, psychological, gothic, artistic, weird, twisty, and symbolic. It’s true that I do have a tendency towards particular film types, genres, tropes, but I also like to be surprised. Lord of Tears is great in this regard since it feels classic, but it also brings something different and new. And the film’s revelations are chilling. I’m looking forward to future films from Brewster and company. Count me in as a fan. If anyone is wondering what my favorite part is, it would have to be Evie’s classy dance number. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was her improvised choreography that helped Hulme win the Stoker award for this film. Of course she’s a terrific actor and an alluring presence in the film, too. I like Brewster’s description of her as a “gothic Marilyn Monroe.”
Lord of Tears can currently be purchased in a deluxe DVD or BD package, complete with disc extras, soundtrack, booklet, and a scary surprise sealing the package wrapping, at the Lord of Tears Official Fan Page.