2018 | unrated (R equivalent) | starring Kaniehtiio Horn | directed by Ted Geoghegan | 1 hr 31 mins |
Halloween Horrorfest # 7
Ted Geoghegan made a splashing debut with his effective slow-burn ghost story We Are Still Here. He follows that up with an equally confined but not as effective revenge tale in Mohawk. The film drops us in the middle of the woods, in the middle of a conflict in the war of 1812. Trust has already deteriorated between the Mohawk people, the American settlers and the British Redcoats when the Redcoats come upon the traitorous lover to young Okwaho (Kaniehtijo Horn, playing her true heritage) and native sympathizer Joshua. As expected misunderstandings based on myth and fear lead to deaths on both sides and both the redcoat general (Ezra Buzzington) engage in a prolonged cat-and-mouse game to butcher each other.
While both are confined, Still Here to a country house and Mohawk to a patch of woods, this is a very diferent film from Still Here. That film rolled out slowly on an increasing sense of dread and exploded in outlandish violence. Mohawk drops is just about in the middle of the action and is remarkably restrained, particularly given the story. A lot of Geoghegan’s decisions here seem at odds with the material. It lacks brutality while telling a savage tale of revenge. It does little to set up our heroine or her world before seemingly turning that on it’s head and sending her into hunting mode. It’s villain (Buzzington) is equally one note, the hissing, yelling variety who Geoghegan seems to entrust that simply being a white European in Native land would put history at his back and fuel the villainy.
That’s one of the film’s biggest, hardest to define tonal issues. Instead of feeling immersive, it feels like something that always has one foot in the future peering back into the past and tap dancing around it for current year audiences. This movie should be a lot bloodier and a lot fiercer and it wouldn’t have Buzzington ranting about how he doesn’t want the white race wiped off the face of the Earth. It appears Geoghegan wants to create a microcosm for a genocidal race war with these 3 groups and it fits together awkwardly. Geoghegan seems weighted down by the heaviness of the conflict and resorts to simple, more politically correct black and white characterizations when a bit more complexity and more realized characters would have made for a more interesting film.
Some movies feel like they need to be more streamlined and simple and some feel too simple for their material and need to be more fleshed out. This is the latter. Mohawk ends as abruptly as it begins, which is always a sharp thing. Brevity is the soul of wit. But to what end. The film feels incomplete on both ends, with Okwaho lacking a satisfying arc and the film never reaching the blood boiling heat of an effective revenge film. It is all a bunch of halfway conceived ideas at odds with itself.