Film: Enys Men (2022)
Director: Mark Jenkin
Starring: Mary Woodvine
Genre: Experimental/Folk/Quiet Horror
Why You Should Watch It:
I love experimental horror films. Sometimes experimental films go completely off the rails and don’t work, and other times you are left with your jaw on the floor. Experimental film is also often met with mixed reviews, like Skinamarink, where viewers either appreciate the unsettling ambience or hate the unusual format the story is being told in. Enys Men is very much the kind of film where viewers will either love and appreciate it, or they’ll feel like watching it was a waste of time. If slow burn fever dreams aren’t your jam, then skip this film, but if that all sounds good to you, read on!
Enys Men is a quiet horror film, first and foremost. Set on a remote island off the coast of Cornwall, England, Enys Men actually translates to “Stone Island” in Cornish. There is no musical score to this film, and very little dialogue. The only sounds in this film are the crashing of waves, the cry of seagulls overhead and the whine of a boiling tea kettle. We follow the caretaker of the island (Mary Woodvine) as she goes about her daily job of noting the temperature and surveying the wildlife. We never know the name of the caretaker, only that she is all alone and the year is 1973.
This film was shot in 16mm film which gives us, the viewers, the true sense that this story is taking place in 1973. The entire film looks like an eerie Instagram filter as seen through the lens of the caretaker. New unnamed characters pop in and out, including a teenage girl who might be her daughter, a preacher who might be her father, and a fisherman who appears to be a friend and a lover. As the days creep on, our main character discovers that the island holds many mysteries, and that things are definitely not as they seem. And what’s up with that big weird stone statue?!?
I appreciated so many things about this film, but I think what I enjoyed the most was that it featured a mature and slightly unhinged female main character. I may watch this one again because there were so many symbolic images and scenes that I’m sure I missed something on my first watch. From creepy miners and fisherman, ghost children, fungal infected flowers and a whole host of horrific folkloric goodness, there’s plenty of nightmare fuel for all. As the kids say, Enys Men is a total vibe all its own, and is a story that will sit with me for a long time.