A24 Releasing: Krisha (2015) - Reviewed

While newcomer writer-director Trey Edward Shults landed an indie horror hit with his critically acclaimed yet divisive It Comes At Night, A24 which distributed the film quietly issued a limited edition blu-ray disc release of his debut film Krisha exclusively on their website.  

The first and only home video release done entirely by A24, the director’s homemade do-it-yourself drama originally began with friends and family as a fourteen minute short film made in 2014 before a Kickstarter campaign raised enough money to remake it into a feature length effort.  The resulting film is like a longform episode of Intervention restaged as a psychological horror film full of unfocused dread, familial fears and anxieties echoing the inner turmoil displayed in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Punch-Drunk Love and at it’s center a galvanizing performance by part time character actress turned leading lady Krisha Fairchild in the titular role. 

It is Thanksgiving and the 60 year old Krisha returns home to reunite with her family she’s long since abandoned many eons ago, seeking forgiveness while claiming she’s overcome her alcohol and drug addictions and is ready for a second chance.  With many family members present, she offers to cook the Turkey, a huge responsibility she seems ready to take on.  In between puffing cigarettes and making small talk amid the family, it is clear her siblings are wary of her presence with some not ready to let bygones be bygones quite yet.  Will Krisha be able to prove she’s changed for the better or are her past self-destructive demons still just lurking around the corner ready to strike again?

Aided by It Comes At Night composer Brian McOmber’s electronic score which sounds very like Aphex Twin’s Bucephalus Bouncing Ball amid Penderecki inspired strings and cinematographer Drew Daniels’ free shifting between 1.33:1 fullscreen and 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen inside a 1.85:1 window, Krisha plays a bit like an experimental student film whose heavy subject bring all the techniques together to form the perspective of it’s tragic figure.  While these techniques arguably run the risk of disengaging the viewer from the film in a display most college professors will write off as “the first week of film school”, like Christopher Nolan’s use of IMAX shifting, they’re used at key dramatic points to evoke the cooker pot tensions boiling within its central figure which are ready to spill over at any moment.

Loosely based upon the director’s own experiences with an addicted relative including a painful exchange between the titular Krisha and her daughter Robyn Fairchild (herself a therapist), the film plays like a stylized confessional about the choices between helping someone beyond help and coming to terms with the futility of trying.  That it is all framed from the point of view of the wrongdoer herself with many shots of her wrinkly craggy face staring blankly into the camera only make the anxieties and heartbreak all the more raw.  Krisha herself brings a realistic intensity to the character which feels natural, one that a mainstream Hollywood actress would otherwise overplay in search of Oscar bait. 

Whether or not Krisha ignites a newfound career for the lead actress or more people seek out the debut film from the director of It Comes At Night is beside the point.  Though it will alienate some and won’t make new fans out of those who hated his recent horror film, I myself found Krisha to be a healthy antidote to the typical addiction/redemption films where all the anguish and hurt wrought by the addict is neatly tied up in a bow.  If nothing else, it creates a perspective of a deeply troubled woman who desperately wants to reconnect with her fellow humans yet cannot begin to understand why her loved ones have moved away from her.  More than anything, Krisha reveals itself to be a poignant horror film that is less about the traumatic damage of addiction than the heartbreaking pain of self-preservation.  

- Andrew Kotwicki