Written and directed by Steven Adam Renkovish, a woman finds herself in the midst of a dark mystery after the unexplained loss of a loved one, her mind begins to unravel as her sense of reality begins to slip away. Starring: Brittany Renée, Justin Livingston, Tiffany Majors Doby, Rachel Sims Jackson, Christiana Wilson, Jessie Roberts and Mary Miles Kokotek.
There’s an immediately ominous air to The Awakening of Lilith, its choices in style feel reminiscent of found footage and it leans heavily into familiar horror territory. It’s an element which comes with advantages and disadvantages, it does well to build a suspenseful atmosphere and leaves dark possibilities lingering in its background. However, when the true intentions of this story start to reveal themselves, the style doesn’t entirely work as it’s leading the audience into a destination which it doesn’t intend to visit. The choices of angles and framing also feel unnecessarily restricted, there’s a heavy use of close-ups and a lack of movement.
Beneath the layers of horror lies a relatable story of anxiety and depression, Steven Adam Renkovish uses that darkness and fear to explore how these conditions affect the lives of those suffering with them. It’s a clever idea, to emphasise their affects and how difficult they can be to escape, but unfortunately, it gets so tangled in a horror story that it’s pulling itself in two directions. The mix of themes and tones works well but it leaves it too late to let the reality take charge, potentially leaving viewers still expecting a larger story and missing out on a harsher punch to its finale. The way that the story moves can also feel a touch repetitive, it’s a slow-burn and the dialogue can be overly simple or vague at times, it hinders bringing through more layers and detail to the story.
There’s similar difficulty with the romantic vein to the story, which is in part due to the missing chemistry between its couple played by Brittany Renée and Justin Livingston. There’s also little time spent on building that connection, instead focusing more on their conflict, which makes the later tender moments unable to land effectively. Its foray into the religious feels unnecessary, though it’s a theme often found in this type of cinema, in this case the scenes are stretched out and distract from the story. Although one of the great inclusions is how family and friends react to Lilith’s (Renée) anxiety, displaying the typical antipathy and doubtful behaviour, derogatorily underestimating the overwhelming weight it lays upon her.
The Awakening of Lilith focuses so much on framing itself as a horror film, that it can’t create a balance between that dark atmosphere and its exploration of mental health. It’s a smart idea to marry those two versions of darkness, fear and anxiety go hand in hand but it needed to let its themes of mental health take the lead more strongly towards to the end to do them justice. It’s a good example of how easily mental health conditions are underestimated and downplayed by those without experience. Although it feels as though the direction needed to loosen up a little, bring a bigger variety to its framing and use of negative space. Regardless of its flaws, it’s a valiant effort for a first feature from Steven Adam Renkovish, attempting to do a lot on a small budget and explore important topics with a new perspective.