Curse Of Aurore

***

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Curse Of Aurore
"The dynamic between the three leads works very well and makes them interesting to spend time with despite their naivety and occasional obnoxiousness."

There has been increasing speculation of late that found footage is going to shift increasingly into the screentime format used by films like Searching and #Blue_Whale. The Curse Of Aurore suggests that it will struggle to continue in the recovered film footage format made popular by The Blair Witch Project, for reasons not so much dramatic as technological. Whilst the improvement in quality of gear available to the public or, in this case, small time filmmakers, has improved the quality of the viewing experience,it has a serious drawback: it simply makes it too difficult to hide things.

Mehran C Torgoley’s film (co-written with star Llana Barron) tries to have it both ways, adding pixilation effects to certain frames in post. It just about gets away with it, but one cannot imagine audiences allowing themselves to be patronised like this for very long. Making the best of its opportunity, the film sets out to ask viewers how they would feel if faced with certain ghost story of occult horror tropes in real life, from spinning crucifixes to ghostly faces in the mirror.

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It’s more successful here than might be expected, but much stronger when doing its own thing – a scene in which two of its characters try to move their unconscious friend out of the path of a car seen approaching in the distance delivers a whole different level of tension. Both approaches are complicated by the fact that its story is rooted in real life events of a much more deeply disturbing nature.

The real Marie-Aurore-Lucille Gagnon did in February 1920 at the age of ten, suffering from septicaemia as a result of the numerous wounds inflicted on her body by her father Télesphore and her stepmother Marie-Anne Houde. She came to be known locally as Le’Enfant Martyr and has been the subject of several previous films and plays. Using this real story might give the film some additional clout in Quebec, where her story is well known, but it is also likely to attract accusations of insensitivity. That the characters (notably Barron’s driven young actress/producer, Lena) don’t show a lot of respect for that story makes sense, given their generational distance from it and the fact that the film wants us to see them as impulsive and naive, but it’s easily interpreted as dismissiveness on the part of Barron and Torgoley themselves.

The real problem is the awkwardness of positioning that real life horror alongside the cheesiness of some of the horror devices used here, which is likely to provoke unintended laughter. There’s also a scene involving tarot which, probably inadvertently, closely mirrors a scene in popular Irish sitcom Father Ted and is liable to have viewers familiar with that programme in stitches. All of this serves to complicate what is otherwise a reasonably successful horror tale.

The tale itself is pretty simple. Lena, together with filmmaking friends Aaron (Lex Wilson) and Kevin (Jordan Kaplan), has travelled to Quebec from Los Angeles seeking inspiration from Aurore’s story – which, when she unexpectedly gets the opportunity to visit the house where the girl died, leads to her deciding to try and tell that story. The locals don’t like the trio’s tendency to try and film everything, everywhere, however, and the situation is not helped by one of the trio’s habit of stealing things. What’s more, they barely speak any French (subtitles are not provided when the locals do, but you won’t need much to recognise the clumsiness of Lena’s attempts or the level of miscommunication going on). They can get by with simple tasks like shopping, but struggle to ask more complex questions such as “What was that apparition on the road which nearly caused us to crash?”

The dynamic between the three leads works very well and makes them interesting to spend time with despite their naivety and occasional obnoxiousness. Incidental material focused on their interactions is strong, and there’s some satisfying spookiness where this blurs into the awareness that something strange is going on. Whilst there are no big surprises in the way the story unfolds, it’s a fairly polished example of this sort of storytelling. If you’re looking for a straightforward slice of occult horror found footage to enjoy before filmmakers abandon this approach, Curse Of Aurore delivers.

Reviewed on: 22 Sep 2021
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Curse Of Aurore packshot
A thumb drive from the dark web reveals disturbing footage documenting three American filmmakers on a script writing trip to rural Quebec.

Director: Mehran C Torgoley

Writer: Llana Barron, Mehran C Torgoley

Starring: Llana Barron, Lex Wilson, Jordan Kaplan

Year: 2020

Runtime: 90 minutes

Country: US

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Streaming on: Amazon


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