The Unkindness of Ravens 2016
The Unkindness of Ravens is a 2016 Scottish horror film that was directed by Lawrie Brewster. The film stars Jamie Scott Gordon, who previously appeared in Brewster's 2013 debut horror film Lord of Tears, as a veteran named Andrew who comes face to face with demonic ravens.
David Izatt, D.T. Wilson, Jamie Scott Gordon |
Horror movies aren’t known for having a social conscious, but filmmaker Lawrie Brewster’s sophomore feature, The Unkindness of Ravens, is dedicated to all those suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and the people who love them. You’re not likely to find such a genuine mix of terror and tribute. Brewster and Ravens’ scribe Sarah Daly have the twisted minds of expert fear-practitioners and the empathic hearts of soul healers. This isn’t to suggest the film pulls punches, because it’s quite the opposite, in fact; Ravens refuses to shy from realistic depictions of violence and dismemberment in an effort to accurately recreate the hellishness of war. It’s also a chilling and poignant reminder that, for most who participate in combat, the experience doesn’t end when they return home. If anything, a second, more intense battle awaits; a battle that includes a loss of self-identity, feelings of complete detachment, and the sensation that death is lurking around every corner.
Official Synopsis: The Unkindness of Ravens is a 2016 Scottish horror film that was directed by Lawrie Brewster. The film stars Jamie Scott Gordon, who previously appeared in Brewster’s 2013 debut horror film Lord of Tears, as a veteran named Andrew who comes face to face with demonic ravens.
The Unkindness of Ravens is a slow-burn, character-driven, surreal nightmare with volumes of allegorical subtext. In a film that sometimes seems to have more lyrics in the soundtrack than lines of dialog in the script, lead actor Jamie Scott Gordon bares the immense responsibility of conveying Ravens’ emotional devastation and core ideologies—and he excels like a master thespian. The actor is skilled at communicating tomes through his eyes, his face, and the all-encompassing air of paranoia and sorrow that surrounds his character like a fog.
Ravens also delves into areas of the masculine psyche that filmmakers and actors rarely dare to venture. Andrew’s therapist, Angela (Amanda Gilliland) tells him that she’s seen patients return from the horrors of PTSD, “but never without talking about it.” Easier said than done when you’re a man, a former soldier, a survivor of (and perhaps also a perpetrator of) unimaginable atrocities. Boys don’t cry and Warriors never say die. It’s only when Andrew retreats from society and into the oppressive solitude of the Scottish Highlands, without anyone around to witness his weakness, that he’s able to break down—and break through. The setting is a perfect reflection of Andrews crushing loneliness, where his only company is a fatalistic doppelganger and the masked demons ever-lurking in the periphery.
The visuals associated with a band of supernatural harbingers (the Raven Warriors), opportunistic fiends who prey on depressed soldiers, drug addicts, and anyone who seems to have given up on life in general, are arresting. They’re reminiscent of plague doctors, but like the historical characters they’re based on, these invaders bring more terror than comfort. They swarm like a murder of crows, leading devastated souls, bound in chains, to an unknown underworld. Ravens have long been associated with the macabre, considered spoilers of war for feasting on fallen soldiers, those left to rot after hard fought battles. These marauding manifestations retain the inhuman determination of their reptile/bird brains while rising to the level of medieval raiders, renegade necromancers.
The ability to stream and own films digitally has made collecting physical Blus and DVDs something of a niche hobby. But Hex Media are known for creating products that are well worth owning. This 3-Disc release includes Ravens on both Blu and DVD, along with the film’s haunting soundtrack. The construction is top-notch, multi-paneled with vibrant colors juxtaposed against gloomy backdrops; amazing art lurks in every corner—including the space beneath the discs. Like their initial release of Lord of Tears (a DVD that included a soundtrack and a book of incantations) it creates a multi-layered connection with the viewer while bringing the film to life, beyond mere fleeting images on a TV screen. Believe me, if all studios and distributors put the same effort into their physical products, just about everyone would be a collector.
The Unkindness of Ravens is a raging fever-dream, wherein viewers are taken on a violent exploration of war and its aftermath. It will please fans of Gothic, atmospheric films that tell stories through actions and images as opposed to words alone. Most importantly, Ravens is a living life-line to anyone who thinks he or she is suffering PTSD in isolation: You are not alone. Brewster and Daly have produced a complex, daring examination of loss and recovery that never trivializes or preaches; there is no cure for PTSD here, but there is hope for those who feel their struggles are insurmountable.
Look for The Unkindness of Ravens to adorn many Best Horror Movies of 2016 lists come January.