The vibe heavy Folk Horror Enys Men is a story about a secluded wildlife volunteer falling deeper and deeper into madness while living in isolation on a remote island. Written and directed by Mark Jenkin in his feature debut, this artsy mood piece features limited dialogue, and even more limited cast, and a minimalistic approach to the horror that awaits.
Day in, day out, Mary Woodvine’s nameless character watches over a patch of flowers, recording the ground temperature and observing any changes. In the evenings she makes tea, reads, and waits by the radio for communication from the mainland. It’s a monotonous existence that you can set your watch to but it doesn’t seem to bother her.
“A moody, kinda creepy, open for interpretation story […with] a picturesque, vintage quality”
Everything’s all hunky-dory on her quite island until, of course, her grasp on reality begins to slip. At least that’s what I think happens. It’s hard to tell sometime with these arty vibe movies. Maybe she’s crazy. Maybe she never really existed at all. The nightmarish qualities of Enys Men are elusive and short-lived although it’s “lost in time” approach does deliver at least a couple of gripping sequences. That’s largely thanks to Mary Woodvine’s stoic performance and the film’s haunting sound design which punches the dread of it’s hallucinatory sequences up a couple notches.
Shot on expired film (or at the very least made to look as though it was shot on expired film) Enys Men has a picturesque, vintage quality. I recently started shooting film on an old camera and I’ve been falling asleep at night scrolling through nerdy subreddits about analog photography. For that reason alone, I had a great time analyzing the grainy cinematography and shot composition of this sleepy moving picture. But my appreciation kind of ends there. It was very pretty to look at, but the movie doesn’t have much in the way of a compelling story.
Hot at the Shop:
As a reviewer, I’m usually provided with press notes and director’s statements to help explain the film. These are great resources when prepping for an interview or looking for answers after you’ve been left scratching your head for 90 minutes. As it turns out, the story was largely inspired by the Merry Maidens Stone Circle which is said to be a group of girls turned to stone for daring to dance on a Sunday (those silly little heathens) but also plays with themes of “mining, religion, horticulture, sacrifice, fuel shortages, birth and death, sex, saffron buns, and block universetheory“. There’s a lot going on.
If you love a moody, kinda creepy, open for interpretation story, Enys Men is a movie you should absolutely put on your watchlist. Fans of Robert Altman’s Images (1972) will especially appreciate the long zooms and retro cinematography of this similarly single character driven psychological horror. It’s heavy on primary colors and loaded with quick little moments of doom that weigh heavier for never finding resolve. I will assume the story feels more complete for anyone who grew up hearing about Cornish folk stories but mostly, it’s a vibe for the vibe-seekers that tries to capture the emotion of feeling your mind drift away toward oblivion.
“…goes the extra mile to capture the emotion of feeling your mind drift away toward oblivion.”
Mark Jenkin’s Enys Men hits select theatres March 31. Check out the trailer below and let us know if you’re excited to see this moody folk horror over on Twitter or in the Nightmare on Film Street Discord! Not a social media fan? Get more horror delivered straight to your inbox by joining the Neighbourhood Watch Newsletter.
[Review] Artsy Folk Horror ENYS MEN Captures Cabin Fever In A Crisp, Vibe-Heavy Nightmare
If you love a moody, kinda creepy, open for interpretation story, Enys Men is a movie you should absolutely put on your watchlist. I had a great time analyzing the grainy cinematography and shot composition of this sleepy moving picture, but my appreciation kind of ends there.