Braid (2018) ☆☆☆(3/4): They must play….

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I enjoyed how things get weirder in “Braid”, a small horror thriller film which alternatively jolts and baffles us with the growing madness surrounding its three main characters. Although I am still not so sure about what I exactly watched from the film, I was impressed a lot by its style and atmosphere nonetheless, and I found myself getting more fascinated with whatever is going on the screen, even while observing its story and characters from the distance.

The story begins with one desperate situation of Tilda (Sarah Hay) and Petula (Imogen Waterhouse), two college students who get involved with some drug gang organization and then find themselves in a serious big trouble. When they are handling a substantial amount of drug in their private place, the police suddenly come, and they have no choice but to run away without that drug, which is worth around 80,000 dollars.

When Petula later calls a drug dealer they work for, the drug dealer is not so pleased while also demanding her and Tilda to pay back 80,000 dollars within 48 hours. Although Tilda and Petula do not have 80,000 dollars right now, they have an idea for how to get it. They have a rich childhood friend named Daphne (Madeline Brewer), and they may steal more than 80,000 dollars from her while playing a game with her alone at her big house located in some remote area.

Once Tilda and Petula arrive in Daphne’s house, the game is instantly started as demanded by Daphne. While Tilda plays ‘Daughter’, Daphane plays ‘Mother’, and Petula later appears as ‘Doctor’. Their game initially seems to be a harmless child’s play, but Daphne turns out to be quite a disturbed girl to say the least, and we soon get one of the most shocking moments in the film as Tilda and Petula obediently follow a certain sadistic demand from Daphne.

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As they find themselves stuck in Daphne’s house longer than expected, Tilda naturally become more nervous and scared about what may happen during their game, but Petula insists that they should stay for finding the money necessary for their survival. There is nobody in the house except them and Daphne, so it looks like they will easily get the money once they find the location of a safe which probably contains lots of cash.

Of course, things do not go as well as they hoped, and Petula and Tilda only come to play more with Daphne, who surely has some very twisted ideas for more fun and thrill. She keeps demanding Tilda and Petula to stick to their roles, and Petula and Tilda are subsequently thrown into more absurdity and madness, while desperately trying to get out of their increasingly loony situation as soon as possible.

As slowly accumulating tension on the screen step by step, the movie frequently emphasizes the warped reality surrounding its three main characters, and we are accordingly served with a series of hallucinogenic moments filled with panic and paranoia. The more Daphne shows her dark side, the more Tilda and Petula becomes confused and disoriented somehow, and we begin to wonder about what is exactly going on among them.

And the circumstance becomes more complicated when a local detective who knows a bit about their past enters the picture. When he visits Daphne’s house at one point, he senses that something is not so right, so he gets himself more involved in the situation later after getting some information about Petula and Tilda, but, as already announced in the opening scene, that leads to another disturbing moment in the film.

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While its three main characters are not particularly likable enough to make us care about them, the movie still draws our attention via a series of visually striking moments. As fluidly moving here and there around the spaces inhabited by the main characters in the film, cinematographer Todd Banhazl effectively establishes the nightmarish mood on the screen, and the ambient score by Michael Gatt is utilized well along with several notable pieces of music including a couple of operas by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

And it surely helps that the movie is anchored well by the excellent trio performance from its three lead performers. While Sarah Hay and Imogen Waterhouse steadily hold the ground as required, Madeline Brewer, who was unforgettable in Netflix film “Cam” (2018), is fantastic as freely wielding her character’s psychotic aspects, and she and her two co-performers are engaging to watch with the constant power shifts among their characters throughout the film. Although the movie occasionally becomes shaky due to its rather thin plot and characterization, its three lead performers ably support the movie together under the competent direction of director/writer Mitzi Peirone, and we sort of come to accept its several illogical moments as also embracing its unreliable emotional narrative.

“Braid” is the first debut feature film by Peirone, and she shows considerable talent and confidence here in this film. In my inconsequential opinion, the movie deserves to be mentioned along with other similar films such as “Heavenly Creatures” (1994) and “Thoroughbreds” (2017), and you will not be disappointed if you are looking for something edgy and different.

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