Unknowable horror has often been the object of my fascination. Cosmic terror exists on a level elevated beyond just the predictable musings of a serial killer or cannibalistic tribe or spooky ghost. To recognize that an entity or power of magnificence so divine and colossal has, for just a moment, proceeded an incremental fraction of its infinitely malevolent attention unto you is an existentially terrifying concept. Calvin Welch's 'Anglerfish' plays with such an idea through the lens of a juxtaposing cultural shock involving EDM techno music, angelic beings descending from the heavens to issue divine punishment, and really long nightmare sequences. Do, is Anglerfish the avant-garde slice of horror you seek, or just another film to pass by? Let's dig in!
For starters, this film is incredibly experimental with how it portrays the plot. Frankly, it's anything BUT spoonfed, and numerous symbolisms exist beneath the surface through subtle intrigues (examples being the radio playing static, Mary's backstory with relation to Jonathan, Juliette's true nature, etcetera). It could often times be disorientating when a character discusses an artifice of themselves important for the plot only for the scene to transition into a sizable dance sequence that honestly, I felt could've been cut down immensely. But I'll try to explain the plot best I can for you all. Two countryside farmers living upon a rather suspect piece of land that seems cut off from the world, Jonathan and Mary, encounter a traveling woman named Juliette during their daily lives. Juliette's husband was apparently killed during a chaotic incident involving smoke and likely supernatural forces. Such an experience relates heavily with the couple, as Jonathan laments the loss of his first wife and Mary seems distraught over the perishing of her brother during wartime. All of these stories link together in the form of a mysterious entity that consistently terrorizes the farming couple, and now Juliette. This being takes the form of whichever individual seems to bring out the most trauma and regret in the person, for Jonathan being his wife, Mary her brother, and now Juliette her lost husband.
I couldn't really explain coherently what the plot of this movie was if I was suddenly asked, but I believe that's an aspect of its charm. A horror movie relies on several factors such as fear of the unknown and constantly reminding the audience of the powerless situation the characters are in, which I definitely felt whilst watching this movie. It seemed a bit fatalistic, considering the couple and now Juliette were entrapped in a fate seemingly inescapable. This is furthermore cemented through the symbolic parallels to Mary's life, hers being an aspiring intellectual until a rainy night dashed her dreams away, and she was forced to give up on her ambitions to stay with Jonathan. When Juliette arrives, she forms a strong connection with Mary and even offers her a path of freedom from her isolated existence that she jumps upon, likely the reason Jonathan attempted to kill her near the climax. Personally, while I couldn't understand the very elongated sequences the movie presents us with (that being one of intimacy near the beginning with John and Mary, another of this strange techno dance that Juliette partakes in, and finally a nightmare sequence to Mary that seems to reveal the extent of Jonathan's crimes and perhaps the true nature of whatever the entity is that's harassing them), they do properly disorientate a viewer, which if that's what Calvin Welch is going for, he certainly delivers. Furthermore, I did find the inherently Biblical connections this movie touts as really profound. Mary states that the plot of land Jonathan and her inhabit will be 'the first God planted and the last he plucks from the Earth', which seems to be exactly what happens. The movie's ending reveals the world outside has been consumed by darkness by Juliette, and both of them become encumbered with a searing, peaceful light, foreshadowed by the entity, which likely was an Angel all along. Meanwhile, Jonathan, who counts among the 'wicked' of the world for his attempted killing of Juliette to keep Mary around as his apparent possession, dies haplessly.
Ultimately, Anglerfish is a rather thought-provoking movie. Personally, I have mixed feelings on it. While I understand the route Director Welch is going for with the experimental additions of elongated sequences of dancing or disorientating footage alongside symbolic parallels that are meant to draw forth a plot, I do believe even with artistic liberties that a line does exist of 'too much', and upon crossing it your project will end up seeming too otherworldly that your viewers will struggle to understand thereby become frustrated with your film. However, that's just my opinion, and I still highly encourage you all to watch it should you have an hour to spare, considering it still bears a storyline and narrative construct that I found engaging. Thank you all for reading, and expect more reviews shortly, God bless you all!