Directed By: Axelle Carolyn
Written By: Axelle Carolyn
Starring: Anna Walton, Tom Wisdom, Tanya Myers, Emma Cleasby, Nick Brimble
UK Certification: 15
Running Time: 97 minutes
Distributor: Soda Pictures
UK Release Date: 11th August 2014
“BANNED: Soulmate is the Welsh movie that became a video nasty by mistake” Wales Online.
I was oblivious to it in all honesty as the press coverage had managed to pass me by, but in the midst of the UKHS preparation for our video nasty week, Marc Morris happened to mention to me the rather bizarre story of Soulmate. It’s an unlikely tale for a low budget ghost story shot in the Brecon Beacons, but indeed the first few minutes of this picture effectively got the film banned until the Belgian born director Axelle Carolyn agreed to remove then altogether.
The scene in question regarded the lead character of Audrey (Walton) who following a personal tragedy attempts to take her own life through slicing her wrists. The BBFC judged this to be ‘imitable behaviour’ due to the accuracy of this undertaking and refused it a certification. The option was there for 16 seconds of cuts and an ‘18’ certificate but Carolyn felt that this would simply mangle the flow of the scene and opted for complete removal, so here we have this cut version which is out in the UK this week from Soda.
The film opens with Audrey driving through the picturesque landscape of Wales to reach her destination of an isolated stone-built cottage. It’s a gorgeous location, elevated above the countryside with sweeping vistas across the serene landscape. The interior of the property is clean and tidy, albeit littered with a cornucopia of trinkets and bric-a-brac that serves to give the illusion of this holiday residence being homely and lived-in. Teresa (Myers) the caretaker of the building is quick to stop by to welcome Audrey to the locale which helps to establish the fact that she is here alone, and when Teresa clumsily asks if she’s looking to get away from her husband, we’re left in no doubt as to the reason for Audrey’s chosen solitude.
Night falls on the cottage just as Audrey is going through the process of unpacking. After a power cut she’s left to guide herself around the place by torchlight accompanied by the noise of rather unsettling series of bangs. As we hear the wind howling outside common sense prevails and such disturbances are put down the weather, although on her travels through the property she does encounter a locked room which plants a seed of uncertainty into our minds. The following day, Audrey travels over to see Teresa to ask for a key to this room but she immediately shrugs it off as just being a box room full of junk from the last owner and that she wouldn’t be able to lend her the key. It’s a strange meeting, one in which Teresa’s husband Dr. Zellaby (Brimble) is also present, and throughout there is an air of uncertainty, of secrecy – all of which suggests that Talbot Cottage has a history that people are trying to hide.
The genius of Soulmate lies in several aspects of the picture, but most notably the way in which it forces the viewer to ask if these disturbances are caused by the history of the cottage, or whether they are manifestations that Audrey herself is creating from her grief. As we are afforded glimpses of her bandaged wrists from time to time, they serve to remind us of the depth of her suffering and the desperate place in which she is fighting to lift herself from. Conversely, the atmospheric location of the film and the secrets that this cottage holds provide us with a nagging indecision over the authenticity of what Audrey sees.
With its setting, its gentle pace and its emphasis of atmospheric intrigue, Soulmate could easily sit comfortably among those classic M.R James BBC adaptations such as A Warning to the Curious (1972) as well as something like Joseph L. Mankiewicz’ The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947). There are some really long periods of dialogue in the film, yet Carolyn never finds it necessary to spice these moments up and she lets the actors engage with the viewer – and thanks to the performance of Anna Walton, these sequences are both gripping and hypnotising due the original nature of the events that take place. Soulmate is the antithesis of what the horror genre is churning out right now – something which should make us embrace this unique offering. If the BBFC censorship debacle serves any benefit whatsoever, then hopefully it’s to drag this understated work further into the public eye to give it the audience that it richly deserves.
7.5 out of 10
Commentary by Axelle Carolyn and Neil Marshall
Frightfest Interviews with Axelle Carolyn, Neil Marshall and Anna Walton conducted by Alan Jones
Short Films: The Last Post (12mins) and The Halloween Kid (7mins)
*Keep your eyes peeled for a forthcoming interview from me with the director Axelle Carolyn here on UKHorrorScene over the next few days.