Reviews | Written by James Evans 17/10/2017

THE MOOSE HEAD OVER THE MANTEL

If the title wasn’t already taken then The Moose Head Over the Mantel could just as easily have been called A History of Violence.  A sort-of found footage film, the events unfolding are witnessed through the eyes of the titular stuffed noggin, as well as a couple of other ex-animal heads that provide us with different angles on the main room in an old house. It’s 1983 and Lillian (Jessi Gotta, also the writer and a segment director) is a mother who has through circumstance been forced to move to a house belonging to her family but long abandoned. Lillian didn’t even know about the house being in the family until her mother suggests she stay there with her husband and young son. It soon becomes clear to Lillian there was good reason for this secrecy as the house’s horrific history dates back all the way to the 19th century and involves murder and a very human evil.The film is set in various time periods (1881, 1904, 1922, 1945, 1966 and Lillian’s time) and we cut back and forth between these years to build a picture of how the brutal violence that was present in 1881 casts a shadow over everything that follows. Lillian already has concerns that her son is not altogether right and what she learns about the house will only intensify her building dread.It’s an interesting riff on the found footage approach, and Gotta and her crew are careful to use the conceit cleverly to slowly feed us more information as the film progresses towards its final reveal. The time periods are directed by someone different, but the animal heads are our cameras each time and their impassive, objective observance of the horrors that happen help develop that atmosphere. For the most part there’s no camera-in-the-face close ups here either so the cast work hard to involve us in proceedings. The set-design and costuming that clearly delineates each different year from the others make everything easy to follow.Gotta’s script is genre-literate and subtle, and while the ending is not exactly unexpected, in the main this is deftly handled stuff. For a film about violence and the lingering effect it can have on generations it doesn’t shy away from this either with some uncomfortable moments that work as horror but also just as much as a matter-of-fact-commentary on the way families can tear each other apart, taking others down with them.It’s a compelling, bleak film that’s well made and worthy of your attention. With her third feature, it further marks Gotta out as a talented filmmaker who is doing interesting things with the genre.THE MOOSE HEAD OVER THE MANTEL / CERT: 15 / DIRECTORS: JESSI GOTTA, REBECCA COMTOIS, BRYAN ENK, MATTHEW GRAY, SHANNON K. HALL, JANE ROSE / SCREENPLAY: JESSI GOTTA / STARRING: JESSI GOTTA, NAT CASSIDY, JESSE VANDERVEER, KRISTEN VAUGHAN / RELEASE DATE: UK RELEASE TBA  

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