Holly lives in a nice house in a lovely suburban neighbourhood with her ambitious husband and two demanding teenage boys. She likes teaching, but it seems something’s not entirely right. Medicated for her insomnia, she dreams these very vivid nightmares – so vivid they might even be real. When a mouse pops up in her kitchen, she starts obsessing over it, to the point of completely losing her mind and her seemingly perfect life. Dean Kapsalis explores a week in the life of a woman who’s mental health is deteriorating with each passing day.

The Swerve is a thriller/horror, in the most realistic way possible. It deals with the psychological desolation and longing of a woman who’s hurting right underneath the surface. She’s lost in a world that keeps using her as if her feelings don’t matter. Kapsalis’ directorial debut is tense from the very first scene. Holly (Azura Skye – ‘The Men‘) isn’t your typical suburban mom, but rather one that’s trying to find her way, even though she has everything most people would die for. The thing she doesn’t have is someone who will listen and understand. Her family doesn’t treat her like a person, and we find out a little bit more about Holly’s past when she becomes the laughingstock at a family dinner with her estranged alcoholic sister.

This being Kapsalis’ directorial debut is beyond comprehension. It’s made in such a meticulous way, with a terrific ensemble cast and an eye for detail that exuberates atmosphere. There’s a constant sense of anxiety, as if you’re waiting for everything to go south. I’ve been a fan of Skye ever since I first saw her alongside Sarah Michelle Gellar in the final season of ‘Buffy, the Vampire Slayer‘, where she played a teenager who knew she was going to die. Watching her in the role of Holly, feels like a continuation of that character’s story – if she had survived, with that constant fear of dying. Skye does a phenomenal job at breathing despair into her performance. She seems comfortable while making the viewer uncomfortable. I don’t like using this term, but credit where credit’s due – this is a career best performance that deserves to be seen by audiences everywhere.

Where Holly is the protagonist in her own story, composer Mark Korven‘s (who also composed the score for ‘The Lighthouse‘) score is like the soundtrack that guides her to the one and only exit. Hauntingly beautiful, it takes over several visionary sequences in which we witness Holly aimlessly walk through the aisles of her husband’s supermarket or drive her car down a dark road. Kapsalis has a way of working with darker shades of colours, as if they’re rotting on screen. He doesn’t want any vibrancy in Holly’s life, because there is none. A nice touch that works well with the sense of dread and despair.

This deeply textured horror film about the normal things in life becomes an absorbing experience thanks to Azura Skye’s incomparable tour de force. The Swerve will haunt you for days.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Swerve is now available on VOD and Digital.

Review – ‘The Swerve’

Reviewed online (screener provided by publicist), September 23, 2020. Rating: TBC Running time: 95 min.

PRODUCTION: An Epic Pictures release of a Spark Chamber production. Producer: Tommy Minnix.

CREW: Director/screenplay: Dean Kapsalis. Editing: Dean Kapsalis, Alec Styborski. Cinematography: Daryl Pittman. Score: Mark Korven.

WITH: Azura Skye, Bryce Pinkham, Ashley Bell, Zach Rand, Taen Phillips, Liam Seib, Deborah Hedwall, Dan Daily.

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