THE FERRYMAN Review by Jean Stanton
Elliott Maguire’s THE FERRYMAN opens to the colour blue pervading the screen; blue-tinged bedroom, lit by daylight seeping through blue, flimsy closed curtains as a young woman wrestles back the blue quilt, and climbs out of bed to face another monotonous day. She sits on the step, looking out at the world, and at night, she’s back in that blue bedroom, sat watching scratchy home videos, a woman and a child at the park. Tears prick her eyes. And the same routine again. Bed, step, movies. Again. And again. And again.
Mara’s (Nicola Holt) isolation and misery are beautifully depicted in these opening scenes, and the realisation that she is going to attempt to take her own life is already heart-breaking for the viewer, rapidly turning to unflinching horror as the act graphically unfolds, her head fading into the nothingness of the bloodied bathwater.
But Mara lives, saved by a blood transfusion from the father, Roland (Garth Maunders), who left before she was born and who now wants to make amends. Mara doesn’t want to know. Her descent into depression began when her mother died, and she hates this man who deserted them both. But Mara doesn’t have a choice.
Something strange is happening. She hears whispered voices, the sound of running water and the lovely nurse (Ashton) who comes back home with her, and promises to care and be there 24/7, suddenly ups, leaves and throws herself under a car. With her flat potentially a crime scene, Mara is forced to stay with Roland.
The term ‘morbidly beautiful’ could have been coined for The Ferryman; slow, insidious horror oozes through every scene, accompanied by an eery soundscape, evocative of cold and emptiness, and very effective use of lighting and often disturbing editing. You’re not just watching the horror being played out, you’re feeling it. You experience everything that the mentally-fragile Mara goes through.
Souls of the Dead
And she goes through a lot! A brief happy interlude erupts into unimaginable horror and leads her to believe she is being stalked by a mythical character, The Ferryman, who carries the souls of the dead across the River Styx. Has she cheated him of a passenger? If so, is he exacting a terrible price?
The Ferryman is a horror film of many levels: there is the nerve-jangling suspense, the truly terrifying set pieces and an iconic character up there with the best of the horror villains. However, the human horror is very real too, a direct insight into a seriously troubled mind, and the way in which the support given to Mara for this is sensitively handled by the filmmakers. Full praise, too, to Nicola Holt and Garth Maunders for their sympathetic portrayals of this daughter and father.
Incredibly shot on iphone 7, on a micro micro budget, The Ferryman is a mature, tightly-constructed whole experience, both sensitive and very scary, and I thoroughly recommend it.
Dir. Elliott Maguire, UK, 2017, 76 mins
Cast: Nicola Holt, Garth Maunders, Pamela Ashton, Shobi Rae McLean