Reviews | Written by Martin Unsworth 02/11/2020

CULT GIRLS

When Dalia (Saara Lamberg) was a child, she was rescued from an underground pagan cult. She was split from her two sisters, though, and vowed to never give up looking for them. Now older, she meets black metal fan Samoth (Dean Kirkright), who leads her to Moloch (Albert Goikhman), an enigmatic musician who lives the black metal lifestyle and lives deep in the woods. When she is faced with him, a world of malevolent forces and the fate of her siblings becomes clear.

Folk horror is making something of a resurgence and this Australian effort from director Mark Bakaitis takes a surreal, ethereal approach to the subject of paganism. Shooting some scenes in Lithuania adds a fantastic quality to the visuals - particularly in the in the drone shot over a packed graveyard. The nearest reference point would be Jean Rollin rather than Ari Aster, though. There’s nudity aplenty and dreamlike ceremonies pepper the action.

It’s ably acted - particularly by Lamberg and Jane Badler, who plays the High Priestess who presided over the cult in which she was incarcerated as a child - and the crossover with the black metal scene isn’t some hackneyed outsiders view of the subject. Care has been taken to treat the subject with respect rather than knee-jerk finger-pointing and scaremongering on the musical genre. It’s been made on a low budget, which may put off a casual viewer, but fans of ‘70s Euro horror may get a kick out of it.

Umbrella’s DVD has around 45 minutes of supplementary material, the best being a making-of featurette that also includes a separate section that focuses on the impressive sound design and music of the film. Likewise, the commentary from the director and executive producer Nathan Hill is enlightening and easy on the ear.

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