Thursday, July 27, 2023

The Mistress

If you have read your Hawthorne, you should be wary of a house with many gables. Parker certainly should have, being a writer. Instead, he and his wife are initially charmed by all the old love letters they find hidden inside. That also should have rung some alarm bells too, but they don’t suspect the supernatural until it is too late in screenwriter-director Greg Pritkin’s The Mistress, which releases tomorrow in theaters and on VOD.

At first, Parker and Madeline are thrilled with their new Queen Anne house (mostly bought by her, because, you know, he’s a writer). They think the old plate camera they find is charming and the former occupant’s love letters fascinate them. They remain oblivious even when a friend suffers a freak accident. Then Parker starts seeing a mystery woman in the house. Initially, he assumes it is his old stalker, but she reveals herself to be the spirit Rebecca, who committed suicide in the house a century prior, after her married lover rejected her.

The Mistress
has some nice bespoke period trappings, like the plate photographs and love letters, but Pritkin’s basic narrative is very familiar stuff. Most horror fans have seen the same before, but oftentimes better.

Still, there are several nice touches. Parker listens to Blue Note-era Herbie Hancock, which is something. It is also pretty mind-blowing to see Rae Dawn Chong playing Madeline’s mom—and she is good, as fans would expect.

John Magaro also does a pretty good Jack Torrance-style slide into madness, or whatever. While Chasten Harmon is totally professional, the character of Madeline is frustratingly underwritten and incredibly unintuitive. They are reasonably credible as a couple, but they do not inspire much emotional investment. However, Kat Cunning helps kick up the energy level with her diva-ish turn as the hard-partying neighbor, Dawn.

As a horror film,
The Mistress is okay, but not great. There isn’t much more to it than that. It isn’t really recommended, but you can always do far worse. Take that under advisement when The Mistress releases tomorrow (7/28) on VOD and in theaters.