Review: Ouzo and Blackcurrant

Written and directed by Nat Luurtsema, two old friends take a trip down memory lane, but they are not alone – there’s someone there who never left. Starring: Cherrelle Skeete, Sara Huxley and Lizzie Martin.

Ouzo and Blackcurrant plays with classic horror tropes, the isolated location, the picturesque and happy opening mixed with a growing darkness, as well as using a typical ghost story feel with a modern edge. It’s deceptively simple: two women, one conversation and a revelation from the past but it uses that to its advantage, to build a bubbly atmosphere so that they can then take you off guard with its ghostly intrusion. It also chooses to introduce this element, the way that a lot of successful horror films do, by leaving something to the imagination, not putting it in too much focus or for too long, letting it scare you through the unknown.

Another great aspect of having a rather simple story is bringing through a bigger punch with the direction and cinematography (by Martyna Knitter). One of the things you can notice quite quickly is how well they use colour and natural light, particularly filming during sunset which not only feeds into the timeline of the film but provides a stunning, natural backdrop. The way it uses a mobile phone to accentuate the horror is a very cleverly modern way for audiences to relate to it and thereby likely be more frightened by it and will pay extra attention next time they open their camera. It’s an interesting use of tech given that mobiles have more recently in horror represented safety and survival, rather than literally highlighting the danger. Another great thing about the direction is how it quickly changes when that danger becomes real, moving from a rather slow and still style to a lot of movement, very handheld and shaky to kick that fear up a notch, so that when it calms down again it’s filled with tension and suspense.

The writing is solid, starting off with a very believable friendship and nice little banter but once you get to the end you realise that it’s a layered conversation. While the story does remain a slight mystery, from what we’re told it raises an interesting point of teenage behaviour and the difficulty to perceive whether it’s a cry for help, especially if the only witnesses are other teenagers who won’t recognise the signs. There was more that could have been told but the choice to keep things unsaid feels like a confident one, much like with its use of the supernatural, it leaves something to the imagination.

Cherrelle Skeete gives a great performance as Esta, she has to very quickly go from light and teasing to a very emotional moment and she handles it superbly, that sharp change adds a lot of tension. Sara Huxley also brings a lot to the table, both by her performance and in being a producer, her role really feeds into the fear of the story, she has such an amiable persona as Jeanie that her fright puts you on edge. The two of them have an instantly believable chemistry, it’s no stretch at all to believe these two were old friends and in fact, it’s just a shame you only get to watch them for a few minutes, you could easily see their friendship in a series like Shrill.

Ouzo and Blackcurrant is scary, stylish and stunning, it’s very well shot and plays things fairly restrained and simple to let the horror speak for itself. There’s a great choice of locations and the direction and cinematography make the most of them to add a superb amount of colour, as well as a natural atmosphere. It takes classic horror themes and adds a modern twist.

Verdict: ✯✯✯✯

Head to Mini Productions’ website for more info and festival showings

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