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Review: Clive Tonge and Saban Films’ Mara

I’ve suffered from sleep paralysis several times in my adult life, and let me tell you – it’s not a fun experience. What makes the situation even worse is that millions of people all around the world share a similar symptom. As stated in Saban Films’ Mara, 40% of the population has suffered from sleep paralysis, and out of that number, 66% of them describe an experience of being attacked by a demon while crossing the bridge between slumber and alertness. In recent years, the subject is being talked about more, so obviously horror film-makers are going to take this real life oddity and turn it into a movie. Final Destination‘s Jeffrey Reddick did it in 2016, and now Moon River Studios and Mann Made Films are releasing their own chilling tale of a demon that attacks you in bed. Their film, Mara, follows a criminal psychologist named Kate Fuller as she’s brought on board a suspicious murder case, with all signs pointing to the wife being the killer and the only witness being their eight-year-old daughter. What starts as a routine day at the office turns into a fight for survival when Kate discovers that an ancient demon is behind the attacks. Her life is turned into a waking nightmare as she falls victim to the monster’s ploys, too, and embarks on a journey to end its reign of terror for good. Written by Jonathan Frank and serving as the feature length directorial debut of Clive Tonge, Mara stars Olga Kurylenko, Mitch Eakins, Craig Conway, Javier Botet, Rosie Fellner, Lance Nichols and Mackenzie Imsand.

In Mara, a quaint, small town is rocked by the murder of a young man, seemingly at the hands of his own wife. From the start, it’s an ominous and mysterious tragedy that lays the groundwork for something bigger. Up until a certain point, it’s quite plausible that the woman strangled her husband to death while he slept. Taking a leap after that, the movie subtly poises the question – how does life return to normal after that? Can life ever be the same again? When it becomes clear that a centuries old demon is the culprit behind the attacks, that question is poised again to our lead psychologist. If she survives, how does she tackle life from now on knowing there are monsters out there that go bump in the night? A little bit of drama and a smidgen of cop action goes a long way in giving Mara‘s audience more to latch onto. Mara is a complex horror movie, where you watch the first half in silence and watch the second half with your eyes covered. Genius storytelling elements backed by Scream-like musical scores propelled this film to become a complete cinematic experience. But, don’t be mistaken. Once the demon sets its sights on Kate Fuller (Olga Kurylenko), it’s a non-stop, spine-tingling horror flick that you’re going to love. Try to picture A Nightmare on Elm street meets 2013’s Mama. Sounds like something you’d be into? Cool. Mara is in select theaters and on demand/digital HD starting September 7th 2018.

Produced by Jake Shapiro, Daniel Grodnik, Mary Aloe, Myles Nestel and Craig Chapman and featuring cinematography by Emil Topuzov, Mara is virtually flawless from a behind-the-scenes or production standpoint. I didn’t spot any errors in any department, and this one’s exceptionally well lit. I also think the location scouts and set designers played an integral role in helping Mara look like a million dollars. Props to Emil Topuzov for his part in making stunning visuals a la the father’s body discovery and the demon entering the hospital ward. Throw in above-average acting and an incredible lead actress, and there’s really nothing to harp on here. While it’s true that Mara is a slow burning horror film, and perhaps more psychological terror than outright horror, it’s successfully scarring. And even while writing this review, I discovered more themes hidden in the story – like how police officers take their baggage from the job home with them. Mara is in select theaters and on demand/digital HD starting September 7th 2018. I highly suggest checking it out if you’re a fan of supernatural horror films or a fan of movies with a deep script, effective scares and top notch production. I almost passed on this one because of its official poster, but I’m glad I gave it a shot. I would have missed out on a clever, suspenseful, nerve-racking horror film.

Final Score: 8 out of 10.

Written by Michael Therkelsen

(Senior Editor)