‘Housewife’ 2017 is a Hypnotic Nightmare You Can’t Wake Up From

"There's only you and your dreams"

I only got a chance to catch a couple of the films at the Portland International Film Festival this year. Of course, my interest lies in the After Dark series that is shown late evenings on the weekends. The entire film festival runs for weeks. If you are up in Portland next year- I suggest going to this very diverse and well-done film fest.

The first film I saw was Housewife. Wow. Where do I start? I really enjoyed it, but I’m not sure everyone in the theater liked it as well as I did. A lot of people just walked out whispering WTF? Having been told ahead of time, “Even if you don’t like it, stay to the end because you don’t want to miss how completely f*cked up its gonna get.” I stayed, and I liked it. I went knowing that it was a Turkish film spoken in English instead of sub-titles and that it was from Can Evrenol who’s equally dreamlike debut film in 2015, Baskin, was a brutal and disturbing flick. Can has been quoted as having been inspired by Dario Argento and Lucio Fulci films, so I knew I was going in for a strange movie. I was not disappointed.

Here though, I have to admit something. Occasionally I watch a film that goes so over my head that I almost feel stupid because I don’t understand it. A movie like this could do that. With influences from directors I’ve never seen or bizarre visuals that don’t make sense, (yet, I think are supposed to) it’s easy to get lost in a film. Housewife took me to some confusing places, but instead of feeling like I wasn’t smart enough to “get it” I continued to love it to the very bloody end!

Housewife centers around our titular character Holly (Clémentine Poidatz) and begins in a flashback of what seems to be Holly’s childhood memory of her mentally ill mother murdering her older sister and father. But is that what really happened? Back in the present, we meet Holly as an adult. Emotionally scarred, frail and traumatized, she is a woman who is haunted by nightmares of her past.

Holly, as our narrator, is the unreliable type. This is always an interesting tool in thrillers; can we believe what we see, or is this just her mentally ill brain? One of my favorite parts was a reoccurring thing she does. She saw her sister murdered, drowned in a toilet. For the whole film, she uses anything but the toilet to pee in. Sinks, tubs, anything but the toilet. This is some crazy PTSD!  Motherhood is also something she is afraid of because of her memories of what her mother did. When a woman has a rough relationship with their mother (ok, murder was more than rough) it becomes hard to fathom the thought of being a mother yourself. Will I do it well? Will I do terrible things too? These thoughts could consume you.

Holly’s husband, (Resit Berker Enhos) an artist who also writes about the Occult, shows her a painting he did for his book, that when you look at it again at the end, as well as little girl Holly’s drawings, you see her destiny was decided a long time ago. This art ties into the explosive end of the movie. But again, is what we see real? When Holly becomes part of a supernatural dream cult, “Umbrella of Love and Mind”, things get weirder and crazier. We watch her unraveling, and realize we will never really know what is real and what is in her unstable mind.

Housewife is full of H.P. Lovecraft-inspired images and artsy elements from European films and is the kind of story that even if I am not sure how it transitioned from a horror film into a sci-fi film and then back again- I loved the colorful if pretty f*cked up journey. Does that make any sense at all? Holly seems to be the key to the beginning of a new world, after an apocalypse. The mother of a future generation, of what, aliens? What is reality though? Was any of it real? Was it all just her nightmares? What does the descent into madness look like? I’m going to go out on a limb and say Housewife takes us there! I am sure that two different people could come away with a completely different view of what the movie is about, and honestly, I think that is cool.

As much as I enjoyed it, I am finding this is a very hard movie to explain. I might even be completely wrong about what I thought was happening and if I try too hard to explain it, I will give too much away. I think it’s worth watching, but this will be one of those divisive films. People will love it or hate it. There isn’t much in between. As a comparison, Suspiria and The Void come to mind, kind of. (sigh…) I think Housewife is a fantastical, nightmarish, and shocking ride. A cosmic sci-fi/horror blend that is beautiful to watch. Layers of deep colors and textures filled with gore so deep, yet lovely that it’s hard to look away. The film says a lot about the destructive power of our own thoughts and the lies we tell ourselves to get by so as not to go crazy. Or does it make us crazy? Hmmm

Housewife has a few problems, which will make it a hard and long watch for a lot of people. It’s a very slow burn movie that you have to watch carefully to follow. We were also left with many unanswered questions. (Like who is the old lady, why is Holly’s necklace significant and was any of this real?) The film is not for the faint of heart or prudes. There are quite a few scenes with over the top violence and sexuality. The gore was all practical effects, which I loved, and incredibly well done, even if some were silly. When the leader of the Umbrella Cult (David Sakurai) peeled a guy’s entire face off and wore it like Leatherface, it was interesting, from a gore lovers perspective- but I wasn’t sure where it fit into the story. It also might have been better to have the actors speak their native language and use subtitles. Some of the dialogue was stiff, making the pacing a bit strange. To give the actors credit- it would be hard to connect with other people if you are not speaking in a language you understand well. It didn’t bother me that much, but some people will dislike that too.

Bottom line: Housewife is interesting, crazy, grotesquely stunning and surreal. Perfect for Lovecraft fans and horror lovers that feel “the bloodier the better”. Far from perfect and I daresay not quite as good as Can’s previous film Baskin, but worth a watch in my humble opinion. But like I was told- stay to the end- it gets crazy. I may be a little confused, but not whether I liked it. Not for everyone, gory as hell, but one that leaves you with a lot to think about and discuss, even if you don’t agree with me or the person sitting next to you.

Housewife is still on the festival circuit. To find out more check out their Facebook page for more info.



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