Reunion is a two-in-one horror treat, serving up a scary mother and a spooky old house full of secrets. Evil mums are terrifying and pleasurable in equal measure; reflecting our intergenerational angst while pushing the same dynamic to spectacular heights. Here, Julia Ormond’s deliciously passive-aggressive matriarch delivers both campness and genuine unease.
Reunion sees the return of Ellie (Emma Draper), an academic studying black magic, to her New Zealand childhood home. Heavily pregnant, Ellie longs for a quiet weekend to focus on her work, but such hopes are dashed by the presence of her domineering mum Ivy (Ormond) who is packing up the furniture in anticipation of the house’s sale. Like her namesake, Ivy is poisonous, pampering Ellie only to immediately criticise her every move. The atmosphere is claustrophobic, littered with moving boxes as well as unresolved childhood traumas; the decor only enhances this tension with stifling flowery wallpapers a direct contrast to the black gunk oozing from the kitchen sink. Underneath all the prettiness, something is clearly rotting: as Ellie wanders through the corridors of her youth, her repressed memories come flooding back: death, betrayal, unspeakable secrets, darker than any gunk.
Reunion is admirably patient: instead of jumpscares, it is more interested in creating an ambience of perverse disquietude: slides of bloody magic rituals, flickering home videos, even brief experimental closeups of internal bodily fluids. These choices initially appear cryptic, but they all come together in the film’s last stretch in a gory, kaleidoscopic spectacle of family trauma. Ormond’sperformance is stunning – she has a magnificent line involving boiling a cauliflower – and there are some truly sublime visual moments. Even if it’s one of those films where the parts are a lot better than the sum, Reunion is sure to linger in the mind.