While the majority of Hollywood horror filmmakers are pretty much exclusively making nothing but jump-scares, the independent scene is turning the genre on its head. It doesn't always need to be about immortal slashers, ghosts, and demons when the reality of many people is terrifying enough. Writer/director Jason Banker gets that, and incorporates a true sense of fear in his new feature film titled Felt. Having made its way through the festival circuit, Amplify Releasing has picked up North American rights to release it theatrically, with a VOD release to follow. It's not your traditional horror, yet it's more haunting than you could possibly imagine.
Battling to overcome being abused and raped by the men in her life, Amy (Amy Everson) creates an alter ego in order to cope with living in a male-dominated society where the expectations of women are often disturbed. After finally meeting a seemingly nice guy, unthinkable terror lingers when Amy becomes vulnerable with this new romance in her life. Amy must battle with her alter ego in order to once again gain control of her life.
Rape culture is very real, but not many people want to talk about it. No doubt, it's a tough subject to discuss, but it's something that must be addressed. Women all around the world are taken advantage of psychologically and physically, and many of these women aren't given justice or aid. They are simply left to fend for themselves in a society where harsh sexual expectations are placed on them, often making them look like objects rather than human beings. Writer/director Jason Banker and co-writer Amy Everson have created a horror film that feels all too real in our modern society. There is no exploitative rape scene, but rather the effects that it has on a young woman, as she's held by only a string. The character of Amy is a tortured individual who ultimately finds herself craving the power and control that men have, hence the male alter ego that she has created.
It's all so incredibly unsettling, but that's exactly how a picture about rape culture should be. Banker and Everson maintain an incredibly tense tone that is consistent from the first frame until the credits are done rolling. Even some sequences that may feel like a tangent are actually some of the most brilliantly subtle sequences that are meant to visualize how Amy views society. However, such commentary isn't told as much in the form of a narrative as it is in a poetic sense that is both haunting and disturbing. Much of this comes from sequences with very little dialogue, which drowns out the sounds of the world, and places the audience directly into the mind of Amy. She slowly begins to unravel over time, as she ultimately becomes an unpredictable character that can no longer cope with her pain. It's a dark, but necessary way to explore such a story.
Felt is undeniably complex filmmaking, especially when it comes to the character of Amy. However, we aren't always in the know about her story. She only unloads some of this pain when she finally feels comfortable with hew new boyfriend, leaving audiences to attempt to understand what's going on. There's a mysterious and ominous tension underlying the entire feature that hardly escalates until the final act. We're constantly made aware that something bad is going to happen, but we aren't sure what it is. However, Amy and her alter ego are ultimately forced to confront one another and metaphorically fight for dominance over who will take over Amy. Few films are as jarring as Felt, but this is a horror film with an undeniable societal message that simply must be heard.
Writer/director Jason Banker has some experience behind the camera, although this is Amy Everson's first time in front of it. However, this is a powerful and disturbing performance that's impossible to shake off. There isn't always a whole lot of dialogue, yet Everson manages to completely bring us into the mind of Amy. It's an entirely convincing portrayal that carries the film from start to finish. Other characters come and go, but she remains the only constant factor. This is an emotionally soul-shaking performance that goes beyond skin and bone. Few horror pictures get lucky with talent such as Everson, particularly when this is their feature debut.
The majority of Banker's experience comes from documentaries, which explains Felt's style and tone. The film is often given a dream-like presentation that adds to its poetic quality. This could have easily become an unrecognizable tale about rape, but Banker maintains a constant focus that always makes it her story. The cinematography often transitions its color palette, as it switches from a light and airy picture to vibrant colors. Perhaps this is meant to express the two sides of Amy that have been created after all that she has endured. This is all supported by a score that perfectly fits the film's atmosphere that is both beautiful and eerie at the same time.
Banker and Everson's film certainly won't be understood by all, but it deserves to be seen. It's an impactful film about rape culture that works rather well as a horror film. It features an important societal message, all while being more terrifying than a supernatural killer could ever be. Despite its dream-like cinematography, this film offers a sobering look at certain societal values that make for a culture that is undeniably unequal, yet it manages to do so without losing an ounce of its unnerving atmosphere. Felt is beautiful, haunting, and memorable. Recommended.