Still/Born – Beyond two souls
Original Title: Still/Born
Directed by: Brandon Christensen
Screenplay: Brandon Christensen, Colin Minihan
Actors: Christie Burke, Jesse Moss, Rebecca Olson
Publisher: ESC Editions
DVD/BR Release Date: January 4, 2023
Mary gives birth to twins but only one of them is alive. While caring for her living child, Adam, she suspects that something, a supernatural entity, has chosen him and will stop at nothing to take him away…
Available for a few months on VOD under the title Beyond two soulsBrandon Christensen’s first film arrives today in Blu-ray format and recovers for the occasion its original title, namely Still/Born. For those who haven’t seen it on Amazon Prime Videoit is a fantastic film playing on themes such as mourning, motherhood or madness, while recycling a few gimmicks from contemporary horror cinema, borrowed among others from the sagas The Circle – The Ring and Paranormal Activity. These are certainly not the freshest references in terms of fantastic cinema, but it should be noted that the release of Still/Born on North American screens actually dates back to 2017, which chronologically places it not far from Paranormal Activity 5: Ghost Dimension (2015) and The Circle: Rings (2016).
Still/Born therefore invites us to follow Mary and Jack (Christie Burke and Jesse Moss), a young couple whose recent parenthood has unfortunately been placed under a disastrous sign, through the death of one of their twins, who died during childbirth. While Jack has thrown himself headlong into work, Mary is in the midst of postpartum depression. Experiencing intense difficulties in mourning her missing son, she gradually sinks into dementia: she hears voices, sees shadows on her baby monitor, then finds herself downright subject to violent hallucinations.
The originality of Still/Born is to take the spectator into the spiral of this furious madness by giving us almost only the point of view of the young mother in distress, convinced that a malevolent spirit is trying to take her son away from her. The screenplay by Brandon Christensen and Colin Minihan (who is expected to write and direct the upcoming reboot of the franchise Urban Legend) is therefore quite openly eyeing the very impressive Mister Babadook (Jennifer Kent, 2014), in the sense that the plot seizes on a loss of rationality to transform events into something supernatural.
As a spectator, we feel that said that the heroine of Still/Born “interprets” the events surrounding him, arranges them in his own way, so that one quickly begins to doubt his intuitions, which do not seem to correspond entirely to reality. The jealousy she feels towards her neighbor or the desire she manifests to hurt her baby – in the hope, perhaps, of attracting the attention of her husband – are all clues that put us on the alert, and which slowly raise a kind of dull tension which will explode during the end of the film.
Unfortunately, Still/Born won’t necessarily deliver on all of its promises either, partly because of an absurd epilogue, but also partly because of Christie Burke’s interpretation. Inevitably comparable to the hallucinated game of Jack Nicholson in shining (Stanley Kubrick, 1980), in particular because of a sequence based on a door being smashed in with an axe, his performance is quite brilliant during almost the entire film, on the tightrope between madness and reason. Mary is a woman struggling with a multitude of emotions that run through her head like so many inner demons, and the way in which Christie Burke manages to communicate this ambivalence to the viewer is remarkable. However, much like Jack Nicholson in Kubrick’s film, the actress sadly sinks into the film’s last act, during which she definitely looks like a berserk. His grimaces and rolling eyes will ultimately cause more embarrassed laughter than chills of anguish…
It will also be noted that Still/Born offers us a remarkable appearance by the brilliant Michael Ironside, who embodies the role of the heroine’s psychiatrist for a sequence or two. Discovered in Scanners (David Cronenberg, 1981), which we will talk about very soon in the Blu-ray section of critique-film.fr, we also saw him in the legendary series V (1984-1985) as well as in the films of Paul Verhoeven Total Recall (1990) and Starship Troopers (1997).
On the Blu-ray side, the cake of Still/Born edited by ESC Editions is a pleasure for peepers: the visual rendering of the film is indeed absolutely beautiful, the definition and sharpness are excellent and the colors literally explode with a thousand lights. Depth of field is razor sharp, and even low-light scenes show good form. The film is offered in 1080p, and there will be no encoding problems in sight. Sound level, the VF and the VO are offered to us in nice mixes DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, with finely distilled atmospheres and sound effects. The scenes featuring the “creature” benefit from a particularly neat pep and spatialization. As a supplement, you will find the traditional trailer.