Review of “Under the Raven’s Wing”

In a voice-over, the
director tells us that this was neither the first nor the last time these
events would take place. As he saw it, Raven wanted the girls to focus solely
on her, and the girls simply saw it all as "tenderness." It’s never
revealed if Jessie and Raven had a sexual relationship before the filming of
the documentary began or whether Raven was simply playing it up for the camera;
nor do we learn whether or not Angel was ever seduced by Raven.

While this scene sounds
as if it’s exploitative, it’s actually rather tame. The film doesn’t play to
the male gaze, either — the lesbian scene doesn’t read as a means of
titillating the male character. Sex is strongly implied rather than explicitly
shown, and in fact the only person who ends up topless is the director himself.
The surveillance-style camera angle renders the viewer a bit of a peeping tom, though,
and I found the scene to be more unsettling than it is arousing.

Apparently these tenuous
mental and physical connections are enough for Angel and Jessie to allow Raven
to be the ringleader and to hang on her every word. To me, their devotion seems
unlikely, and this was the biggest problem I had with the film.

Kamilla Sofie Sadekova ("Angel") & Jessica Palette ("Jessie")

Group dynamics among
girls and women fascinate me. Often there’s an alpha female among a group of
friends — the leader of the pack. If the girls are school-age, she’s the most
popular. Generally, the alpha is a master manipulator who rules by fear,
sometimes masked in a guise of concern.

Raven never particularly
struck me as being charismatic enough to maintain such a hold over her friends.
She’s surly, controlling and at times verbally and physically abusive, but she
never really balances out her cruelties with enough kindness to propel her into
the role of a cult-like leader.

All three girls have
suffered their share of sexual abuse, and each is dealing with her own demons,
but despite strong performances from Amato, Sadekova and Palette, the
relationships didn’t quite come off as truly symbiotic. In the end, Raven’s
real motives remain unclear.

That said, I’m all for
films that explore the tangled dynamics among women, and Under the Raven’s Wing was a pleasant enough surprise. There are
horrific elements to the film, but it’s not what you’d expect from your typical
scary movie, particularly in the indie realm.

It would have benefited
from some judicious editing, but Raven’s
is certainly a strong directing debut from Susan Adriensen, who’s
carved out her own particular niche as an indie horror actress in films such as
The Blood Shed and Pink Eye. Horror is a genre where women
are vastly underrepresented, whether behind the camera or on-screen in powerful
roles. Adriensen and company seem to be setting about to change all that, and
I’ll be waiting to see what they come up with next.

Watch the trailer:

To learn more about the film, visit the official website.

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