Written by Tom Moore
In her feature debut, Braid, director/screenwriter Mitzi Peroine has crafted a truly fascinating and slow-burning psychological thriller that gives an in-depth look into pure insanity.
The film follows two wanted women (Imogen Waterhouse, Sarah Hay) as they decide to visit and rob their childhood friend, Daphne (Madeline Brewer), to pay back a vengeful drug dealer. Upon visiting her, the two girls are forced into a game of make-believe that quickly turns deadlier and more hallucinatory the more they play. The two suddenly realize that just finding Daphne’s safe is no longer their only worry and they must find a way to escape with both their lives and their sanity.
Peroine heavily utilizes color in Braid to not only contain the dream-like quality she goes for throughout the film, but to also show moments when the harsh reality these girls face comes crashing in. Peroine will have scenes lose all color in order to denote a serious moment or, when the reality of the girls’ actions crashes in on them, she heightens the color to promote the dream-like qualities of certain moments . Using color in this way really drew me in and made me recognize the importance of certain scenes, like when Hay’s Tilda is reexperiencing a more colorized version of a childhood experience after taking drugs.
Now, it has to be said that Braid won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, as the film’s more abstract elements and slow-burn can be kind of a turn off at times. Even as someone who enjoys this kind of horror film, I did find myself getting a little lost in the dream-like sequences and even questioning how I felt about the film.
However, thinking about it a little more, I recognized how much detail and little hints of the story Peroine puts into Braid and found more appreciation for the film. There’re small drawings, little audio cues, and moments where Peroine actually teases an intriguing twist towards the end of the film. Honestly, I would even say that these small details did create a desire to see the film again to catch them all.
The performances from the film’s leading ladies are definitely the film’s strongest attributes, as they dial-up the film’s psychological scares perfectly. Brewer’s performance constantly gives off eerie vibes whenever she is on-screen and becomes a dominant force throughout the film that showcases why she’s definitely someone to watch in the future. Waterhouse and Hay also give great performances as they expertly show their character’s fear and insanity grow throughout the film. Together, these three not only give the film a forebodingly haunting tone, but also create some creepy imagery that never feels exploitive thanks to Peroine’s direction.
Even in the film’s bloodiest moments, there’s an appreciation to be had for how Peroine doesn’t just rely on blood and gore to make scenes scary. Rather, she focuses on the characters’ reactions to amp the psychological scares. Often times , while something more physically disturbing is happening , Peroine cuts to a reaction off-screen and won’t even show the bloody result until later. This was incredibly effective in making certain moments feel more horrifying and highlights the film’s psychological fears as well as the great performances.
Where I felt the film had the most impactful scares was when it finally delves in the true insanity and its thoughts on dreams and reality. The film’s “rules” are not only a pivotal part of how the film’s three acts are split, but are also very prevalent in what’s happening in those acts. None of the rules, however, feels more impactful than the last rule, “Nobody Leaves,” as it clarifies how the film truly defines insanity. Once a late plot twist comes into effect, viewers will see how this situation fully affected the psyche of the two girls and how horrifying that truth really is.
The film also leaves viewers with some interesting thoughts on whether it’s better to chase a dream that won’t come true or to accept the crippling reality of life. The result leads to a finale that’s incredibly disturbing to think about. Braid is not only a truly great psychological horror film, but a strong showing for women in the horror genre. Peroine and company bring a unique style, intriguing performances, and psychological horrors that make Braid another great example of the strength of indie horror in a time where indie horror is at its strongest.