February 29, 2024

PEACOCK Occasionally Flies

PEACOCK (Pou) (Blu-ray)
2022 / 89 min
Review by Josey, the Sudden Cat🙀

At the beginning of this South African film, Anna (Warryn Wyngaard) is a free-spirited young woman living at an oppressive all-girls institute known as The Foundation. For repeatedly violating their puritanical rules, she’s sent to a remote home in the middle of nowhere to serve as caretaker for Sarel (Johan Botha), the theologian who founded the institute decades earlier.

Though not quite an invalid, he’s not quite in his right mind, either. Something of a religious zealot, he’s obnoxiously stubborn, prone to nasty outbursts and obsessed with ridding the human race of sin. Anna soon discovers why The Foundation seems to have so much trouble keeping caretakers here for very long…the house is also occupied by noisy apparitions which appear to be connected to dark secrets from Sarel’s past involving his daughter. 

Much to the chagrin of both Sarel and the doctor who sent her there in the first place, Anna begins digging through his piles of records, books and research, uncovering something sinister (though the narrative doesn’t quite go into specifics…probably for the best). It’s soon apparent that the presence of these entities represents his sins…also symbolized by the ailing peacock Sarel keeps caged in the yard.

"You see that helicopter right there? I think it's been following me all morning."

has a lot on its plate besides a simple ghost story (though they aren’t really ghosts), presenting such themes as sexuality, gender identity, institutional religion and hypocrisy. For the most part, the story is interesting, and if not particularly scary, the film is bleakly atmospheric and often creepy. A languid pace does tend to test one’s patience at times. Surreal, slow burning horror is difficult to pull off well, which director/co-writer Jaco Minnaar occasionally struggles with.  

Still, Peacock manages to stick the landing with a hauntingly poetic denouement, though it might frustrate some viewers used to being spoonfed. It features excellent performances by the two leads, especially Wyngarrd, who is in nearly every scene. While probably not conducive to multiple viewings, it’s certainly worth checking out at least once.

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