It is a rare treat to encounter a period horror film which says a lot about the relationship between man and woman and man-versus-nature, whilst providing a satisfyingly eerie psychological drama.
Angelica, written and directed by Mitchell Lichtenstein and adapted from the novel of the same name by Arthur Phillips, was produced in 2015 and screened in the Panorama section of the 65th Berlin International Film Festival that year. It has taken a while for the film to finally grace theatrical screens and has only just got a November 2017 release in the USA, but if you have been anticipating this release, then the delay to it getting a chance in the marketplace is well worth your time.
Set in Victorian London, Angelica tells of Constance (Jena Malone), married to Dr Joseph Barton (Ed Stoppard), a reputed doctor on the up who wants to cure the world of all diseases in the context of contemporary science. She considers herself very lucky, but after the birth of her first child, she is advised against future offspring by doctors who consider her lucky to have survived this blessed event.
However, sexual tensions and desires, as well as Constance’s curiosity to know more about her husband’s endeavours at her laboratory begins to impact on their relationship, whilst other factors in their lifestyle are starting to shape their destiny….
Having viewed a number of recent Hammer titles as part of the Studio Canal celebration of their work, Angelica not only brings home the effectiveness of a good period horror film in that vein, as well as satisfying fans who are partial to the recent works of Guillermo del Toro like The Devil’s Backbone and Pan’s Labyrinth.
What also elevates the film above the standard horror fare is the additional depth of reflection about how man and woman relate to one another, which is not dissimilar to that which we see in many a David Cronenberg film, particularly in the post-birth sequences.
Jena Malone, who graced the screen in The Neon Demon, gives a convincing performance as a Victoria Brit with a faultless diction that belies her American roots. Stoppard holds his own as the ambitious doctor who hides a dark secret in his work. Good support comes from Janet McTeer in a pivotal role as a medium.
There is a genuinely dark and creepy allure about the film, with some great visual effects and style courtesy of cinematographer Dick Pope. Composer Zbigniew Preisner - who collaborated with Krzysztof Kieślowski on the Three Colours Trilogy and the Andy Garcia/Meg Ryan drama When a Man Loves a Woman) - provides a lush, atmospheric score.
Angelica is a fantastic example of good genre filmmaking
ANGELICA / CERT: TBC / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: MITCHELL LICHTENSTEIN / STARRING: JENA MALONE, JANET MCTEER, ED STOPPARD, TOVAH FELDSHUSH / RELEASE DATE: TBC