Spirit of Fear (2023)
June 30, 2024 8:35 PM - Subscribe

2023 horror flick in which a man wakes up confused in an empty family home with one arm bloody, then finds post-it notes scattered around saying things like "Don't stay in here too long", "Don't go outside", "Run?" and "Fight?" while water runs down the walls, something claws at a shower curtain and he has vague memories of a woman and daughter somewhere. The tension, confusion and horror build. Debut from director Alex Davidson clocks in at a quick 75 minutes. On Tubi with no ads.
posted by mediareport (6 comments total)
I liked this slow burn of an indie horror flick; it's basically a one-man show with very little dialogue but creates and sustains a creepy and disorienting mood, and is short enough that I didn't get bored wondering where it was going before hitting an ending. It's hard not to compare it to films like Jacob's Ladder and The Machinist, which have a similar "neither the audience nor the main character know what the fuck is going on" vibe, but while it's not as good as those films, I thought it worked well enough. No critic reviews at RT but an 86% audience score, although it seems to split audiences at Reddit and Letterboxed, with some folks adamantly hating it.

I knew nothing about it before seeing it on Tubi and diving in, and suggest that as a good strategy. Tubi didn't show me any ads during the film, which was nice.

Spoilery interview with the director
posted by mediareport at 8:50 PM on June 30 [3 favorites]

The reviews for this on letterboxd are lower gaining it a 2.8 average. I should add of those who wrote reviews many were not pleased with the religious bent of this film as it seems to use possession as an excuse for being an abusive spouse/parent. Personally I found this film boring, but agree the religious angle is problematic.
posted by miss-lapin at 6:38 PM on July 1

Finally a movie that recognizes the horror of stepping in something wet and getting soggy sock.


Knew nothing of this movie until seeing this FanFare post and figured you can't go wrong with 75 minutes, though it did start to drag for me just before it became explicitly psychological. Sometimes that twist can feel like a rip-off, but here it felt like a relief; for the first half when I didn't know what the hell was going on I started to think about what I would do if I was the guy, and then what I would do if I was the director (Some odd choices, wasn't a big fan of the actor, who I thought was the Arcade Fire-lookin' guy from Furiosa). Sort of paradoxically, the story becomes far more solid and engaging once it goes full metaphysical.
Didn't like the exorcism bit, it could have worked just as well if not better had the guy been fighting a figurative demon of being an abusive shitheel rather than a literal one that "made" him be a piece of shit. The dripping tap at the end seemed to suggest the problem persists though, so perhaps it's not as much of a pat happy ending as it seems.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:18 PM on July 1 [2 favorites]

[also spoilers]

it seems to use possession as an excuse for being an abusive spouse/parent

I can see the "it's boring" criticism, miss-lapin (I took a breath at around 50 minutes to tell myself, "ok, it's creepy enough to finish and there's not much more"), but when I saw comments like the above at various review sites I found them to be just a bit unfair to the film. Do folks suggest directors are "using possession as an excuse for being a murderer" when they show people under the influence of demons killing someone? The film is clearly, at least a little, trying to say something about domestic violence, but I don't think it's making excuses.

At the end, after he fights off the demon, when you see his injured wife she absolutely recoils from him when he approaches her, shaking her head "no" when he reaches out. His daughter, too, is still scared of him, and yeah, she gets over it too quickly when he smiles at her, just like the wife, who puts her arms around him in acceptance after he sobs and falls to his knees, but the very last scene, as the wife watches the husband carrying their daughter, is her face losing its smile as she puts her hand to her neck and the camera pans past her to the drip drip drip of the water from the faucet. Like Alvy said, it seemed like an analogy to the ongoing risk of more domestic violence in the house.

Was it the most thoughtful take on household violence I've seen? No, not by a long shot; it's surely relevant here that a major idea for the film came from the director and his brother, according to the interview. But was it using demonic possession as an excuse for violence? I don't see how that criticism fits.

wasn't a big fan of the actor

Yeah, I went back and forth on that; it's a hard thing to do - carry a film by yourself. I think a lot depends on whether you like his face, to be honest. I thought he did a good job.

I also like that it leaves open how much he was actually helped by the priests (my take: not a lot; it was mostly all him and whatever he was hearing and recalling about his wife and kid, but the director, who talks about religion being important to him in that interview, would probably have a different view).
posted by mediareport at 9:38 AM on July 2 [1 favorite]

Hopefully it doesn't seem like I'm griping too much! A lot of my viewing lately has been horror/suspense stuff on Tubi, but I probably wouldn't have come across it or given it a chance had you not posted it. I'm still thinking about it, which says something. I grew up in a house with a parent with anger problems and it's something I struggle with too, plus my wife and our kid have been gone for a while on a roadtrip to visit in-laws and I too have been walking around an empty house dealing with grotesque demons in the form of the world's most annoying cats, so it was actually very affecting. Thanks!
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:37 AM on July 2 [1 favorite]

I pointed out something referenced in multiple reviews at letterboxd that I agree with. If you didn't find it problematic, that's great. I'm allowed to have a different view of the film.
posted by miss-lapin at 11:19 AM on July 2 [1 favorite]

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