Onus: Review

Onus: Review

By Alif Majeed.

Towards the beginning of Onus, Anna, the lead character who had accompanied her partner to her ancestral house, has to choose between staying and running far away in the opposite direction. It also feels like a straightforward choice, considering how creepy Izzy’s family has been. But unsurprisingly, she chooses to stay put before its too late. It is a choice that a lot of horror movie heroines have to make. It has now become a classic horror movie troupe. 

The reason why she does that is not that she is not intelligent. There is no doubt about her intelligence, especially how she figures out something is wrong in the way the house treats both her and the maidservant of the house. The difference is that as a character, she is way too polite. 

I was reading a book about cops where they had mentioned a lot of crime that occurs in an elevator or lift is because the victim is too polite. Like the victim is about to walk into a lift and sees a lone person in the lift. Now it turns into a moment of choice. Even when his / her gut instinct or common sense says to run in the opposite direction, they still enter the lift out of politeness. Only to fall into the trap of the lone perpetrator in the elevator and be the victim. 

Anna feels like a character who has to choose and choose to go down the rabbit hole.  Add to the fact that her natural compassion as a trainee nurse kicks in. It makes a choice seem more effortless. 

Onus is a movie that wears its inspiration up its sleeve. You know where it starts from Get out and veers towards the Wicker Man with Rosemary’s Baby thrown in for good measure. It all adds up to a movie that seems familiar while heading towards its climax. 

Anna and her girlfriend Izzy, decides to visit the latter’s family at her vintage house. Almost immediately upon getting home, she realizes there is something fishy about the house and especially her family. The fact that the family also confuses details of the patriarch’s ailment also raises her suspicion. She even starts to feel a kindred sympathy towards the housemaid Lucy (Shaniece Williams), and the feeling becomes mutual. As the maid tries to warn her to walk away indirectly, she chooses to stay, in part due to the politeness mentioned earlier and partly due to her being a trainee nurse, and as Izzy wanted her to check on her ailing father. As the movie progresses, she also starts to get nightmares about ritual sacrifices and gets sicker, which again, may have something to do with the family. 

The thing about Onus is even if its inspirations may or may not be intentional, it still plays a lot like the movies that came before it. And when there is a mention of lost fortune, and we get to see the sick patriarch, it confirms that feeling you already had about where the movie is going to.

The movie looks like it had to work around a lot of its budgetary restrictions, but under the circumstances, Alec Secker, the director has managed to make it work with what he had. The nightmare sequences that Anna experiences throughout the movie also has a disconcerting quality to it. 

Among the cast, Shaniece Williams, who plays Lucy, the long-suffering maid of the family, is fantastic as she struggles with the loyalty towards the family and her concern for Anna’s inevitable fate. As Anna, Daniella Faircloth has also done well as the vulnerable girl with a disturbing past, implied to be why she was the “chosen” one for whatever the family has in store for her. 

The main gross I did have with the movie is the third act. What would usually be the climax of many horror movies of the same genre almost feels like it would go on forever. Maybe it was an attempt to subvert the genre expectation, but it did feel like it would never end. Until it actually does. I’m trying hard not to spoil things here as it would make it difficult to explain without giving away that ending. But for a sophomore effort, which certainly had its budgetary limitations, it is a decent effort in the horror genre. 

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