Review of “Under the Raven’s Wing”

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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