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Hagazussa - Hagazussa(Blu Ray/CD) [Arrow Video - 2020]

Hagazussa is an extremely moody, very carefully paced, at times darkly hallucinogenic period set horror film that focuses on a mother & daughter living in an isolated Alpine hut in the 15th century. Itís fair to say like a lot of what has been bracketed under Ďpost-horrorí- the film has got decidedly mixed press- but I must say it stands as one of the more worthy & effective of this modern sub-genre, as itís largely darkly enchantingly with key moments of haunting grimness, very tangible dread, and shudder-inducing horror. Here from Arrow Video is a double-disc release of the film- bringing together a Blu Ray of the film & taking in some neat extras, and a CD of the films earthy 'n' brooding soundtrack.

From 2017 Hagazussa was the first feature-length film from Vienna, Austria born Lukas Feigelfeld, who directed, wrote, and produced the film. Itís English sub-titled in an Austrian dialectal variant of the German language, but if your not a fan of subtitled films donít worry- the dialogue is fairly sparse & not too difficult like say 2015ís The Witch. And at this point it seems fitting to discuss the comparison between these two films- sure like The Witch, Hagazussa utilizes both forest & folk imagery, as well of course witchcraft touches all with a period setting- but unlike The Witch, there is a keen feeling of tangible dread through-out, with bursts of real bone-chilling horror & dark earthy trippy-ness.

The film begins in deep winter as mother Martha(Claudia Martini) & young daughter Albrun(Celina Peter) make their way through the dusk shrouded mountain scapes onto thick & sinister woodland back their isolated wooden hut. Itís clear that they are unliked by many of the nearby villages, and are accused of been witches in the first really unnerving moment where a group of three people dressed as folklore creatures arriving at the pairs hut in the middle of a deep snowy night. As we move forward the fairly elderly  Martha becomes very sick, and in time dies at the side of a murky pound covered in snakes where Albrun finds her. We step forward ten or so years & Albrun is now in her late teens/ early twenties- sheís still living in the hut, but now she has a baby- which seemingly has no father, and the film slowly but surely gets darker & tripper, as it moves towards its fairly deranged resolve. Though-out Feigelfeld films the landscape in such an atmospheric & moody manner- going from thick perfect white snowbound mountains, through to dense, shadowy at times mist surrounded woodland, onto the subtle sinister alpine landscapes in both spring & summer. The score is minimal & at times fairly jarring in its sudden rise- and it mainly based around broodingly sawing Ďní bowing ragged string tones. The acting is largely subtle & nuanced, as already mentioned this isn't the most dialogue-heavy film. After having seen a trailer for  Hagazussa, I was unsure what to expect/ was ready to be disappointed, as Iím not the biggest of the whole Post-Horror thing- but I must say I most impressed by Hagazussa- finding the feeling of build dread & moody tension most effective, and the constant peppering of horror, and later trippy elements keeps you locked in & entranced.

Moving onto the extras- and first, up we find a new commentary track from the always worthy genre expert/ critic Kat Ellinger- she starts by talking about the history of folk horror & itís key film, going onto to talk about why she thinks Hagazussa fits into the folk horror. She moves onto talking about the director's influences from Austrian folklore, connections she sees with Hagazussa & the likes of Ingmar Bergman & 70ís Czechoslovakian films. She goes onto discuss the period of history the film is set in, the treatment of women in this period, and the Malleus Maleficarum- which was the guide to witch find & persecution. She talks about why she feels itís a feminist film, how it often sidesteps expected horror paths and comments on key scenes. All in all another great & interesting track from Ms. Ellinger.
Next, we get around half-an-hour worth of directors commentary on selected scenes from throughout the film. We have a few deleted scenes and the original trailer. We get two of  Lukas Feigelfeld early films- thereís Interferenz from 2014- this runs at forty-eight minutes, and focus in on a group of men working in an off coast drilling plant- this is decidedly grim & bleak, with a crawling pace- it looks good with effective brooding cinematography, but sadly it didnít pull me in. Next thereís Beaton from 2011, and slides in just the hour mark- and compared with Feigelfeld other work is extremely grainy, lo-fi, and handheld film following a young unemployed couple getting involved in an escalating circle of petty crime that leads to tragedy. This is interesting enough in itís look at inner-city youth unemployment, but the couple themselves are decidedly unlikeable. Anyway, a good selection of extras on the Blu Ray really.

Lastly we, of course, have the CD soundtrack of the film- this is by Athens based MMMń formally Mohammad, who are a three-piece chamber doom collective. The CD runs for fifty-two minutes taking in twelve tracks, which each run between one and nine minutes apiece. All of the tracks are fairly similar in both their deep somber & sawing tones and the slow doomed harmonic rises & simmers. Not sure if Iíd put this on a lot on its own, as it does sound a  little samey- but itís a neat addition, and if the idea of a more strung-out earthy & chamber take on Sunn O))) sound like your thing then youíll get more from it than me, though thatís not to say it doesnít work in the context of the film- as it certainly would have had the same impact without it.

Itís great to see Arrow Video giving such a classy double-disc release of Hagazussa- as it really one of the more compelling, and at times downright bone-chilling & brooding films to appear from the post horror genre. Itís not a film for everyone, and you really have to expect very slow pacing & more grim moodiness than story or logic, but let your self slow to its pace & Iím sure youíll be equally entranced by the films constantly pressing feeling of dark unease & grimly smoldering dread.

Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5

Roger Batty
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