Review of “Under the Raven’s Wing”

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The ups and downs of

female friendships — and the sometimes terrible way we treat each other — have

been explored in works ranging from the film Mean Girls to Margaret Atwood’s novel Cat’s Eye. Writer-director Susan Adriensen gives the theme a horror

bent in her film Under the Raven’s Wing,

the story of three young women whose intense friendship (yes, one night it

leads to lesbianism) leads to murder.

Raven (Kimberly Amato),

Angel (Kamilla Sofie Sadekova) and Jessie (Jessica Palette) share outsider

status in their unnamed small town. Raven, the ringleader, tends toward the

goth side of life and is prone to spouting off about the belief system she’s

devised.

According to Raven, there

are different dimensions one enters after shuffling off this mortal coil, much

like Dante’s Inferno. The dimension

one ends up in is dependent upon one’s conduct during life. Raven claims she

possesses the power to help people along to these other dimensions — to

"transcend." Of course, what she calls "transcendence," you

or I would call murder.

How Raven discovered

these other layers of existence is never revealed — probably because it’s all a

big load of bull invented after a few too many trips to Hot Topic. Angel and

Jessie, however, are true believers in Raven’s philosophy, and they’re more

than willing to help her prove herself right.

Raven plays off each

girl’s vulnerabilities and insecurities to keep them under her thumb and to

ensure they become willing accomplices in murder. Wait — I meant

"transcendence."

Kimberly Amato as "Raven"

In her bid for future

fame, Raven has also enlisted the services of a young male filmmaker to

document the entire process, from selecting the "lucky" victim to

carrying out the horrid act itself. The young man remains nameless throughout,

but he provides commentary as he gets drawn deeper and deeper into the bizarre

world the three girls have made for themselves.

Under the Raven’s Wing is filmed documentary-style, and the story

unfolds in small segments from interviews to casual observances, all jumping

back and forth through time.

While the movie falls

most easily under the category of horror, at its core it’s a psychological

character study masquerading as a horror film. It hinges upon the relationship

between the three leads and their interactions. Why would Angel and Jessie go

to such lengths for Raven? Does Raven actually care about these girls, or is

she simply exercising whatever power she can?

Some of these questions

are answered, but certainly not all. Angel’s mother has passed away, and Raven claims

to still "see" her in the afterlife; Raven relays messages to Angel

and lets her know on which "level" her mother’s spirit resides.

Meanwhile, Raven plays mother to Jessie, who’s never really had an influential

female role model in her life.

Jessica Palette ("Jessie") with Amato

The lines in their

relationship become blurred, however, in a late-night dalliance caught on

camera. As the three girls sleep on the

floor, the director sets up a camera and climbs into bed alone. Eventually,

moving blankets and various groans let us know that Raven and Jessie are having

sex.

Soon thereafter, the

director and Angel set about consummating their ongoing flirtation; when Raven

catches sight of this, however, she quickly puts a stop to it by seducing the

director herself before letting Angel and Jessie join in.

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