Saturday, October 07, 2023

Aberrance, Horror from Mongolia

J-horror and K-horror have rabid fans in the United States and Europe, so could this be the start of a M-horror movement? Considering how well this film works, sure, bring it on. It is not the first Mongolian horror movie, but it is being billed as the first Mongolian horror film to get an American theatrical release. Regardless, most viewers will probably get their first taste of Mongolian horror from Baatar Batsukh’s Aberrance, which is now playing in theaters.

Erkhmee has brought his ambiguously “disturbed” wife Selenge to a remote country cabin, so she can rest for the sake of her advanced pregnancy. He is highly protective of her, perhaps too protective, judging from the perspective of their new next-door neighbor. Selenge’s vivid nightmares are also quite alarming. There is clearly something sinister afoot, but Batsukh is deliberately withholding the full picture. The truth is definitely the stuff of horror movies. It will even involve axe murders.

Aberrance seems to follow the classic low-budget horror movie playbook, with its small cast of characters and easily manageable locations. However, its Mongolian cultural origins, particularly the traditional emphasis placed on “hospitality,” deepens the significance of the terrors that unfold.

Frankly, Batsukh’s talent for misdirection would be impressive in any context. Experienced genre connoisseurs might be able to hazard a guess, but there is no obvious telegraphing. You can see up on the screen how much talent and potential he has, as a genre filmmaker.

Of course, he couldn’t pull it off without Erkhembayar Ganbat and Sukhee Ariunbyamba, who are terrific as Erkhmee and the neighbor. They contribute the kind of performances that are even more impressive after the films ends, when viewers can appreciate the subtleties and ambiguities of their work.

is so vividly wintery, you can almost see your breath while watching it. It is also pretty chilling in other ways too. Highly recommended for horror fans, Aberrance is now playing at the Laemmle Royal.