Available now in an unorthodox but attractive little package is filmmaker Lawrie Brewster's Lord of Tears, a bizarre tale about a man named James revisiting his childhood home after the death of his mother in order to confront the nightmares he has about having lived there in his youth. These nightmares seem to be focused around a mysterious figure with the head and claws of an owl but the body of a (suited) man. Though his mother's final letter written to her son beg him never to go there, James goes anyway in an attempt to make sense of his nightmares. While there, he meets a stranger named Evie, an American living abroad and traveling the world. Together they delve into the mystery surrounding the house and James' nightmares of the Owl Man.
It's been a few days since I watched my copy of Lord of Tears, kindly sent to me by its creator, but I'm still having trouble putting into words exactly what it is I watched. Though its set-up is similar to another recent film called The Last Will and Testament of Rosalind Leigh, in which a son goes to the house of his recently deceased mother and finds himself caught in a nightmare, the similarities end there after their fairly straightforward first acts. After that, Lord of Tears becomes this...thing. It involves ritualistic sacrifice, blood history, beheading, and that friggin' creepy Owl Man. I applaud any reviewer out there who attempts to break down and analyze Lord of Tears beyond what is simply presented on screen. That's certainly not for me to attempt, so I'll just leave that lie for now.
Lord of Tears is not for the impatient viewer. Brewester sprinkles in a few creepy and/or jarring scenes here and there to keep you on your toes, but until the last act, Lord of Tears is about this lonely man named James (Euen Douglas) investigating an old house and getting to know the flamboyant and mysterious Evie Turner (the incredibly beautiful Lexy Hulme). There is a nice feeling of dread draped over everything, and the occasional glimpse of the Owl Man certainly keeps you guarded, but Lord of Tears is not your traditional horror film. Brewster's purposeful homage/ode to old school Gothic horror and the works of H.P. Lovecraft are certainly palpable, but they are also an acquired taste, especially in today's fast-paced, quick-cut world.
One of the many pitfalls of low budget film-making (and an easy target) is the acting, especially in films like this in which there are very few characters. Unfortunately, the performances from our two leads range from inconsistent to not great. Scenes in which they share dialogue do not feel natural; in fact, they feel strangely awkward and uncomfortable, as if the two actors never found their natural rhythm with each other. This isn't really detrimental, thankfully, as so much of the film is dedicated to establishing mood and trying to make you feel uneasy, but it's unfortunate all the same.
I would, however, like to applaud Brewster on his tremendous and interesting direction. Lord of Tears has some legitimately creepy moments - some that may come to a surprise if you have the same kind of natural prejudice against low budget horror that I do. (Can't help it, I've seen too much crap in my time.) But Brewster stages several different scenes and uses something as simple as a halfway open door, or an overflowing bathtub, to make his audience feel uneasy. Though there are some unusual choices (the two very random dance sequences; certain scenes that go on for longer than they should), Brewster still directs the hell out of this thing.
Despite my misgivings with the performances and with certain creative choices, I still recommend Lord of Tears. Fans of The Wicker Man or The Dunwich Horror should definitely check it out.