Sunday, May 19, 2024

The Despaired, on BET+

When it comes to reliability, Japanese demons put the U.S. Postal Service to shame. When you mail something, there is maybe a 50% chance it will reach its destination (at least judging by recent experience). However, a grieving letter-carrier Jill Hill keeps receiving an ominous supernatural letter, over and over again, until she finally succumbs to temptation in Jean-Pierre Chapoteau’s The Despaired, which is now streaming on BET Plus.

Several years have passed since Hill’s husband Wayne was fatally shot, but rather than recovering, she steadily sinks further into despair. Frankly, her now-teenaged son struggles to engage with her. Of course, this makes her a prime target for the ancient Japanese entity repeatedly sending her an evil “to the Despaired” form letter.

Inside, are instructions for bringing someone back from the dead. Naturally, Hill was not paying very close attention to the fine print, so her newly returned husband explains she will need to deliver four souls quickly, or he will go back downstairs to his eternal torment. This might sound like a demon impersonating Hill, but it turns out her husband was no boy scout. Perhaps his murder was not so random either. Regardless, Hill tries to comply, searching for the “marked” souls, who are destined for the same place her husband just left.

The Despaired is a low-budget b-grade horror movie, but the way it addresses big archetypal themes, like bereavement, temptation, and damnation, still resonates to a surprising extent. Both the “human” and demonic elements are rather unsettling. However, the subplot supposedly explaining the mysterious Coco’s involvement with the Hill murder comes off like a forced afterthought.

The Despaired
also makes a career in the Postal Service look profoundly dismal. In fact, the entire setting looks economically depressed and relentlessly gloomy. This is a very fatalistic film, but in a way that distinguishes it from a lot of other mindlessly nihilistic horror flicks.

Denise Boutte freaks out well enough as Hill, while Jared Wofford is impressively sinister as resurrected Wayne. Terrence “T.C.” Carson (from
Living Single and U-571) adds some nice non-creepy horror vibes as Omari, the psychic. His sequence is definitely the film’s best horror business.

The Despaired
has its excesses and its shortcomings, but it surpasses expectations for made-for-streaming horror. By the standards of BET Plus original movies, it is not as effective as The Reading, but considerably better than Stay Out. Recommended as a turn-your-brain-off late night stream, The Despaired is now available on BET Plus.