“What are we afraid of?” “I don’t know; we’re men. We don’t talk to each other.” It’s a powerful admission that comes towards the end of Andrew Moxham’s feature directorial debut, White Raven, a film that examines the perils of masculinity.
Four men – Pete, Dan, Kevin, and Jake – are introduced to us in a series of scenes that indicate their lives and relationships are dysfunctional. White Raven opens a window into these characters’ troubled lives, and the dialogue feels immediate, naturalistic, and believable. As it turns out, these four men are old friends who go on a weekend-long “boys trip” once a year. This year, Dan, Kevin, and Jake are meeting up with Pete to go on a day and a half hike into the wilderness.
Once the four meet up, the transition from broken to boastful is startling. It’s obvious that all of these men are hiding things from each other and their forced attempts at fun and manly camaraderie are uncomfortable and painful to witness. We know, as do they, that Pete is the most damaged of all, and in an effort to avoid talking about their own issues, they focus on his. It’s sadly ironic and genuinely scary then, when Pete turns on them.
The acting in White Raven is uncanny. Shane Twerdun, Andrew Dunbar, and Steve Bradley appear in stark contrast to the mannered hysteria they displayed in recent Canadian indie horror She Who Must Burn, thus revealing their impressive range. Red Heartbreaker provides the hauntingly beautiful score, comprised of only a capella harmonies. Although the music suffuses the entire film, it’s clear that its unsettling nature is tied to Pete directly, representing his connection to nature as well as his disconnect with reality. Interestingly, the story of the white raven that Pete tells the others is an actual Native legend. The film references the legend as part of the story without it coming across as cultural appropriation, which is a refreshing change from the norm.
White Raven is not a typical horror film. There is very little gore and most of the violence happens off screen. However, this stylistic choice only makes it that much more horrific when it does take place. The shadow of Canadian wilderness horror classic Rituals looms in the distance, as does its spiritual sister The Descent, but the terror in White Raven comes from within, which is in some ways, far more frightening.
If White Raven is any indication, Andrew Moxham, along with his cast and crew, have tremendous cinematic careers ahead of them.