Review: SOULMATE

Actress, screenwriter, journalist, and make-up artist Axelle Carolyn recently added “director” to her long list of credentials with her debut flick, SOULMATE.  After a couple of short films, Carolyn finally tackled a feature, and did so with wonderful results.  Presented by her husband, Neil Marshall (THE DESCENT) Axelle Carolyn has molded an elegant, haunting, and refreshing ghost story that focuses less on spooky situations and instead showcases the way we grieve, experience heartbreak, and try to move past it all.

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SOULMATE tells the story of recently widowed Audrey (Anna Walton) who after a failed suicide attempt, moves to the countryside in an attempt to clear her head and move past the death of her husband.  However, she soon realizes that she’s not alone in this remote cottage.  Despite the overwhelming evidence that the cottage is haunted by a ghost named Douglas Talbot (Tom Wisdom), Audrey stays and develops a peculiar relationship with him.  While this may sound like a run-of-the-mill supernatural love story, it’s not.  Both Audrey and Douglas have a shared experience of loss and the two quickly use this shared common ground as a means to find solace within one another.

The aesthetics of SOULMATE are, quite frankly, breathtaking.  The world that Carolyn has created is visually stunning and remarkably impressive for a debut feature.  She clearly has an eye for crafting a film, and the imagery felt reminiscent of the more polished Hammer horror films.  I cannot stress enough how beautiful this film was to watch, purely on the cinematographic level.  Unique camera angles and a fabulous set design (seriously, gold star to the art department) kept me engaged the entire film.  While Talbot looking more like an early 20th century ghost (rather than the 30 years ago ghost the story says he should be) didn’t entirely fit with the narrative, I never really paid it a second glance.  I don’t know much about the rural areas in Europe so for all I know, there were folks that dressed that way in the 1980s.  Regardless, the film was gorgeous to look at and a minor narrative inconsistency wasn’t going to change that.  At times the dialogue was a little clunky, but Carolyn’s “less-is-more” approach allowed my imagination to take over during a lot of the film, which was greatly appreciated.  Never once did I feel like the film was talking down to me, if anything, I had to work at times to figure out what was going on.

Acting wise, Anna Walton is dynamite.  She wholly gave herself over to this role, and I was with her every step of the film.  Tom Wisdom was giving it his all, but Walton completely outshined everyone.  That isn’t to say the secondary characters weren’t any good, but Walton was such a pleasure, it made everyone else look mediocre in comparison.  The two villagers presented in the film are a bit over the top, but then again, maybe that was supposed to nail home the Hammer horror inspiration.  This isn’t Walton’s first go around with Carolyn, as she played a part in her short film THE HALLOWEEN KID.  It’s clear that Walton understood completely what Carolyn wanted of her, and this director/actor pairing is one that I’d happily continue watching.

The first and third acts are arguably the most powerful, but I enjoy the tonal shift in the second act with the introduction of our ghostly Douglas Talbot.  SOULMATE has some pretty effective jump scares, the conventional “mystery box” theme in most ghost movies, but excels in that she doesn’t rely on these tools to craft her film.  SOULMATE is atypically paced, and I loved it.  With the amount of films I watch in any given month, it’s always refreshing to have something throw me off my game.

SOULMATE is not a film for those with short attention spans or people looking for only the scariest/edgiest/goriest films ever, but it is for those looking for a unique twist on a genre that helped shape the horror world from the very beginning.  Rooted deeply in the British ghost stories of yesteryear, it’s deliberately slow pace and character driven story is a wonderful change from the found-footage, ultra-gore, or excessive jump scare filled films currently flooding the market. Axelle Carolyn has proved she’s definitely got the chops to continue directing, and I can only hope this is the start of a long and fruitful directing career.

SOULMATE is now available on DVD and VOD.

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