The Movie Waffler New Release Review [Shudder] - GOOD MADAM | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review [Shudder] - GOOD MADAM

good madam review
A woman uncovers a sinister plot in the home of her mother's employer.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Jenna Cato Bass

Starring: Chumisa Cosa, Nosipho Mtebe, Kamvalethu Jonas Raziya

South African race relations intermingle with North African mythology in director Jenna Cato Bass's sunlit shocker Good Madam. It's a cleverly conceived supernatural thriller, if ultimately clumsily constructed. When Bass and her 11 (11!!!) co-writers stick to examining post-apartheid racial dynamics, the film is insightful and sharp, but it struggles to make its horror elements feel anything other than generic and stale.

good madam review

This haunted (or is it?) house tale takes place not in some centuries old European gothic mansion but in a modern, well lit home in an upper middle class suburb of Cape Town. When her grandmother passes away, Tsidi (Chumisa Cosa) and her young daughter Winnie (Kamvalethu Jonas Raziya) find themselves homeless. With nowhere else to turn, Tsidi moves herself and her daughter into the home where her estranged mother Mavis (Nosipho Mtebe) has spent her adult life as a servant to the now bedridden Diane.

Unlike her mother, who has known no other way, Tsidi is uncomfortable in this world of white rule and black servitude. She clashes with her mother, who refuses to even use Diane's china to drink her tea from, so in thrall is she to her mistress. At first it seems this is simply a clash of generational thinking, the younger, liberated Tsidi rubbing up against her mother, still possessed by an apartheid era mindset. But as a series of strange occurrences unfold, Tsidi begins to realise Diane's control over her mother may stem from more than simply race and class.

good madam review

Good Madam has a set-up that wouldn't be out of place in a Val Lewton movie, but it plays out almost completely in daylight. Shunning a centuries old bias against the dark, Bass tells us it's brightness, not darkness, that we should be wary of here. Evil is personified in Diane's blond hair and light skin, her white bedsheets and the sun-blasted corridors of her soulless home. Bass never hammers home any of this, but rather allows us to naturally absorb such clever details as the narrative unfolds. Her film has been compared to the work of Jordan Peele, but it's far more subtly sophisticated in its storytelling.

good madam review

Well, at least for most of its running time. Once the cat jumps out of the horror bag and the truth behind what's really at play in this house is revealed, Good Madam morphs into an uninspired and messy genre thriller of the sort Hollywood churns out a few times a year. It certainly never feels like a script worked on by a dozen writers, but it does feel like it's struggling to get its final message across in a clear and concise manner. The use of Egyptian mythology ironically comes off as lazy cultural appropriation, going no deeper than a few expository shots of textbooks. Prior to that disappointing final act, Bass does enough to suggest that if she can hook up with a writer with a determined singular voice (as opposed to an entire football team of scripters), she could be a new talent to watch on the international horror scene.

Good Madam is on Shudder from July 14th.

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