Horror Club: Hagazussa
There's no denying the fact that much of modern horror relies on jump scares, creepy things that go bump in the night or remakes of classic films just with updated CGI. So when The Witch debuted in theaters in 2016 - a slow burning, atmospheric film that doesn't depend on these elements - there were so many mixed reactions from movie-goers; however, it seemed the ones who spoke the loudest were the ones who complained it "wasn't scary" enough because nothing jumped out at you. Meanwhile, it was the subtle, dramatic and isolated storytelling that really brought the film to appreciation among horror fans. The only reason I bring this up is because this will undoubtedly be the case for HAGAZUSSA, the debut film written and directed by Lukas Feigelfeld that recently hit streaming services. It is a dark and twisted - yet poetic and minimalist - tale of a young woman named Albrun and her descent into the dark, dreary world of paranoia and superstition; and it's a film that will haunt you way after the credits roll.
The wickedness of Hagazussa isn't even in its story - in fact, sometimes its hard to even feel like there is a story its trying to tell per se, and the film still works. At times, you'll find that Hagazussa isn't so much telling a story as it is showing a living moment of a young woman whose been outcasted by the community of their remote Alpine mountain village for allegedly being witches, and it shares their existence in this banished, isolated, lonely life. Told in four parts - "Shadow" "Horn" "Blood" and "Fire" - the film is awfully quiet, incredibly peaceful at times and incredibly unsettling at others. But between the remarkable landscape that Hagazussa takes place in, the breathtaking score by MMMD, and the rarely heard, timid voice of Albrun (the adult version played by Aleksandra Cwen), the film will set this tone and mood that will put your head in a space isolated from the rest of the world as it sucks you into the world of Albrun. The events that this young woman experiences in the film - from her mothers death at a young age and being gifted her skull to the prejudice she faces for being a Pagan to some pretty unsettling sexual perversions - all shape Albrun and leave this really unsettled, dark cloud over you that never truly lifts - even after the film ends.
Hagazussa is not going to be for everyone; hell, it might not even be for most people. It's in no rush to get to where its going, much like the simplistic lifestyle of the community in the film. The scenes are quiet and the action is just a step above non-existent, but it's a glorious, beautiful engagement into the dark, paranoid life of our main character. The film crawls, and honestly, I wouldn't have wanted this film to move any faster than it did; the slow, ambient atmosphere of Hagazussa plays a tremendous role in why this film works so brilliantly well. This movie captures something special in a way I believe very few directors could capture and translate to audiences without coming across as a boring, uneventful film. But Feigelfeld put together something wicked with Hagazussa, and its haunting atmosphere and incredibly journey into paranoia and psychedelics will shatter any negative perception you may have of calm, quiet, and reserved films like this one. The cinematography aspect of the film is revolutionary if you ask me, and should be up for awards for its subtle art you'll find throughout the film.
You're either going to love this one, or hate it - I don't think there's going to be much of an in between. Hagazussa will either capture you and haunt you the way it should, or it's going to fly right under your radar and you'll be wondering where the "horror" element is. That's why the only real way to truly express the ambiance and gothic feel to this is for you to watch it for yourself and draw your own opinion of it. No review you read, trailer you watch or interview you hear is going to accurately dictate the level of emotion and darkened atmosphere you'll experience as you venture into the isolated and traumatic world of Albrun. I cannot recommend enough you taking the hour and forty five minutes out of your night to isolate yourself from this world - shut your phone, put away your tablet - and turn this film on when you are by yourself, away from everyone else. It is only by experiencing Hagazussa that you will know where you lie with this one: whether its love, or whether its hate. And as for myself, this one deserves the two thumbs up I'm giving it.