DIRECTOR: Jeff Wedding
CAST: Kate Groshong, Allyce Wix, Cody Cheyenne, Starina Johnson, Dale Rainey, Stephen Jackson
An old, domineering man rules his family of young women with an iron fist and bizarre moral codes.
It’s arthouse, yes. But for those viewers for whom “grindhouse” is great but “arthouse” induces cringing, A MEASURE OF THE SIN is not opaque. Strange, moody and brilliant, yes. But not (too) opaque. Of course there is symbolism and surrealism here, along with a linear story. And what a shudder-inciting story it is. Young ladies living in a house, the head of which is a commanding old man driven by delusion – “I slept. The world was gone and now it’s back again. … I don’t dream.” Like little children, his … daughters? … bathe together in scenes that in other genres entirely would end in a minor lesbian orgy. They even shave together. Everywhere. Here there’s nothing prurient about it beyond the base fact of nude female bodies. But the tone is sad and disturbing. Sometimes the girls have to go out walking in the rain, carrying buckets for rain gathering, even though this could be done without any women having to walk around in clothes wet to the point of see-throughness just to gather rain that could be caught in buckets sitting outside while everybody was inside and dry. But that’s how the old man demands things be done. It’s okay. He undresses them when they get home, gets ‘em out of their wet clothes. It seems appalling and abnormal to us but for these women, this is the only life they know. Is this how they’ve been raised all these years? As if all this wasn’t bizarre enough, one of the girls begins to witness a bear creeping about the house at night, a bear nobody can see. Sometimes, he attacks her … in her dreams? Or … Regardless of the bear’s reality or lack thereof, it is clearly a symbol of the oppression that rules over the house. Of course, that’s a quick simplification. The savvy viewer can tease more and more layers of subtext from what they see. One has to wonder, if the bear is nothing more than a projection of the woman’s psyche, is she subconsciously creating something even more terrifying than the old man in order to make him seem manageable? If it works for her it doesn’t work for the viewer. The old man remains as relentlessly daunting as ever. He’s a hateful and cruel man who couches his meanness in the disguise of protectiveness. It’s all for the girls, of course. Isn’t that what abusers say? Making this entire scenario even worse, if you thought such was possible, is the fact that a baby is present, the legacy of a mother that was there, but is not anymore. Is she dead or simply gone? If gone, where? If dead, by what means? This is all slowly – and I do mean slow; this requires the patient viewer – building to an escape attempt. Planning, planning, all the time planning: the one of the girls doing the narrating secretly makes notes, sketches, plans. She has to be smarter than the old man even in the planning stages. He cannot find out. Will he be a hindrance? What about the bear? A MEASURE OF THE SIN is a gloomy affair, sad and foreboding and grim. The unpleasant denouement – not so for reasons of gore – is ugly for reasons only indirectly, if that, connected to the old man. While not for all tastes, A MEASURE OF THE SIN is an accomplished film, and original. It is arid, and heady, stark and depressive. The film’s visual style echoes both 70s-era grindhouse movies and also the arthouse flavors I noted above. It’s a unique film and fans of intelligent psycho-horror, for lack of a better genre description (something this film defies), may find A MEASURE OF THE SIN to be a rewarding viewing experience.
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