“Enys Men”


Letterboxd (0.5/5), Imdb.com (1/10)

Well, I’ll say this much about this one – I already have one of my movies for my worst films of 2023 list. Writer-director Mark Jenkin’s so-called horror offering is an absolute mess almost from the very beginning. Set in 1973, this “story” of a wildlife volunteer’s study of a rare flower that grows on an uninhabited island off the coast of Cornwall thrusts the curious but bewildered protagonist (Mary Woodvine) into a surrealistic metaphysical odyssey in which she struggles to determine what’s real and what isn’t. Of course, the problem with that premise is that the viewer is saddled with the same task and likely won’t have much more luck at this than the puzzled environmentalist. The bizarre mixture of imagery, from the wildly imaginative to the everyday mundane and everything in between, is undoubtedly stylish and may be modestly appealing to look at (especially with its skillfully crafted 1970s style of camera work, film editing and intentionally grainy image quality), but there’s an utter lack of focus that keeps audience members at arm’s length (whether intentionally or not) and never provides any kind of meaningful hook with which to engage them. And what the filmmaker supposedly passes off as horror is anything but. Horror is supposed to frighten and shock viewers, not put them to sleep, which is what this picture increasingly does the further one gets into it. Instead of chills and thrills, the picture is interminably boring, eventually becoming cryptic, confusing and downright laughable. I can’t recall how many times I found myself rhetorically asking, “What the hell is supposed to be going on here?” Admittedly, Jenkin is, laudably, an experimental filmmaker, and his supporters have staunchly (yet ultimately euphemistically) referred to this work as a “mood piece.” Frankly, however, I find that a pretentious way of describing what amounts to an amateurish, directionless exercise that plays more like an out-of-control student film project on steroids than a serious piece of cinema. If you’re really and truly up for something atmospheric that delivers the goods and provides a satisfyingly insightful narrative, there are plenty of other better offerings out there, such as the recently release Dutch production, “Splendid Isolation” (2022). You’ll feel much more fulfilled and entertained by those pictures – and you’ll probably stay awake for them, too.