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DVD Released: 4/9/2019
All Ratings out of
Extras: No Extras
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 3/27/2019
In order to create tension and suspense, horror movies attempt to tap in to universal fears. Chief amongst these issues is the feeling of helplessness. Whether one is trapped or being manipulated, the thought that there is no way to regain control is an anxiety-inducing one. Another classic idea is to show a pregnant woman who is in peril. The idea of someone who is in such a vulnerable condition can add another level of unease to a situation. Matriarch combines these two ideas, along with several other familiar notions, to create a story recycles some old favorites.
Rachel (Charlie Blackwood) and her husband, Matt (Scott Vickers), are on a drive through the countryside when Matt hits a tree. The two decide to get out and walk, despite the fact that Rachel is 9-months pregnant, and they soon find a farmhouse. At first, Bob (Alan Cuthbert), isn’t very inviting, but when he sees that Rachel is pregnant, he insists that they come to the house. There, they meet Bob’s wife, Agnes (Julie Hannan), and their sons, David (Thoren Ferguson) and Luke (Martin Murphy). While the family gives off an odd vibe, Rachel and Matt appreciate their hospitality. However, when Rachel’s intuition insists that they leave, the young couple soon learn that the family has some sinister ideas when it comes to having guests.
Matriarch is one of those movies which challenges us with its lack of originality. You needn’t have seen many horror films to know that when a young couple gets stranded in the countryside, bad things are going to happen. And when Rachel and Matt arrive at the farm and Bob and Agnes are super-excited that Rachel is with child, we know that they have some bad intentions. The first half of the film comes across as if it’s intentionally lining up as many clichés as possible and liberally robbing from any number of post Texas Chainsaw Massacre entries.
However, Writer/Director Scott Vickers, who also plays Matt, does have some tricks up his sleeve. Now, don’t be mislead here, the second half of the film does not take off in any unique direction or re-create the genre, but it does subvert things just enough to make it interesting. Once the main premise has been established, as we know that Rachel and Matt are in peril, Vickers begins to roll out a series of set-pieces in which things go from bad to worse for our main characters. (And kudos to Vickers for directing himself in scenes where he’s nude.) In juxtaposition to the completely predictable first half of the movie, the second and third acts do introduce some twists which range from standard to quite clever.
One thing which I admired about Matriarch which some may not want to hear is that it shows a great amount of restraint. Yes, there is some gore here and there are some disturbing ideas, but the movie never becomes torture-porn or needlessly cruel. The movie very clearly lets us know that Rachel and Matt are in peril and never piles things on in a sadistic way. The film also goes beyond even the standard “final girl” scenario in portraying Rachel as clever and resourceful, showing an overall respect for women (even when they are being held captive).
Matriarch is one of those movies which goes down like a good cheeseburger – it’s nothing unique or fancy, but it hits the right spot. The movie never has a low-budget look and it makes great use of its picturesque Scottish locations. There is one scene with some stoners which feels woefully out of place, but Vickers manages to maintain a level of tension otherwise. Matriarch doesn’t re-invent the wheel – it doesn’t even come close – but it does show that some old stories still work. (And the movie gets my household’s highest rating – My wife stayed up past her bedtime to finish it. Trust me, that’s high praise.)
Matriarch utilizes an apparatus which looked too much like a bicycle horn to me on DVD courtesy of Lionsgate. The film has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the transfer has been enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is sharp and clear, showing no overt grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look good and the image is never overly dark or bright. The image is somewhat soft in some spots and the level of detail doesn’t match that seen on Blu-ray Discs, but it still looks pretty good. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The surround and stereo effects work quite nicely at times to illustrate sounds coming from off-screen – sounds which alert us and the characters as to where their assailants are. We also get some moderate subwoofer effects.
There are no extra features on the Matriarch DVD.
Review Copyright 2019 by Mike Long