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Review: ‘Anguish’ delivers a spooky, sensitive tale of possession without the horror antics

Ryan Simpkins as Tesss in "Anguish."

Ryan Simpkins as Tesss in “Anguish.”

(Gravitas Ventures )

A ghostly possession masks itself as mental illness in the eerie and atmospheric “Anguish,” written and directed by Sonny Mallhi. Rather than stooping to horror-genre antics, Mallhi weaves a tale that is spooky but sensitive and focused on interpersonal relationships between mothers and daughters.

Young, troubled Tess (Ryan Simpkins) and her mother, Jessica (Annika Marks), move to a new town, hoping for some peace and a fresh start for Tess, who has long struggled with depression and anxiety. Her father is a soldier deployed to other parts of the world.

As she skateboards sullenly around town, Tess feels a strong pull to a young woman, Lucy (Amberley Gridley), who died after being hit by a car. It’s a bodily reaction for Tess, who sees, hears and feels Lucy’s presence, though the manifestations are easily dismissed as her own mental struggles. As Lucy grows stronger in Tess, Jessica and Lucy’s mother, Sarah (Karina Logue), must come together to help the spirit move on.

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There’s a moment where it seems like it will go down a route toward exorcism, but the religious element is more spiritual than ritualistic. The film ends up a lovely rumination on the bond between mother and daughter that transcends death and dimension.

Simpkins gives a captivating, subtle performance as the tortured Tess. Mallhi employs a creaking, rattling, roaring score and sound design to effectively create the dread and tension with distinctive, creative lo-fi imagery to visualize the spectral presence.

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‘Anguish’

No MPAA rating

Running time: 1 hour, 31 minutes

Playing: Arena Cinema, Hollywood


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