Greg Pritikin has come a long way since his early comedies, including the underrated Dummy. The writer-director now enters horror territory with The Mistress. Starring a cast of up-and-comers including John Magaro, Kat Cunning, and Chasten Harmon, the movie does not lack for talent. Is there a solid story to accompany the behind-the-camera bonafides?
Parker (Magaro) and Madeline (Chasten Harmon) recently got married and have now bought a house just a hop, skip, and jump away from downtown Los Angeles. The hundreds of years old home is spacious and seems to be ideal for the writer and costume designer, respectively. While unpacking/exploring their new abode, Parker uncovers a vintage plate camera in working order. He and Madeline also discovered pages upon pages of letters sent from Rebecca (Aylya Marzolf) to the owner of the house back when it was new. They detail an obsessed lady who cannot get over being a mere mistress.
Parker is an amateur photographer, so the couple decides to take a photo of Madeline in era-appropriate attire. Unbeknownst to them, this simple act awakens the long-dormant ghost of the mistress, who seeks a new person to haunt and be enamored with. Obviously, this causes tension between Parker and Madeline as he is swayed into the ghost’s eerie charms. Is this all a manifestation of Parker’s paranoia brought on by having a stalker a year ago? If the supernatural visage is real, will Parker and Madeline’s relationship survive this unforeseen obstacle?
“…awakens the long-dormant ghost of the mistress, who seeks a new person to haunt and be enamored with.”
The Mistress is an above-average genre offering for much of its 106-minute runtime. Magaro is strong as the bewildered husband. Harmon is sweet and understanding as the nervous wife. Cunning is delightful and hilarious as the nosy neighbor. Marzolf is effectively scary and alluring at the same time. The supporting cast is also quite good, all selling their bit parts in mere moments.
Pritikin maintains the pace well enough, though there is a reliance on standard horror tropes. Strange noises startling the protagonists? Check. Doubting friends/families/cops? Present. Jump scares via a loud bang or some such? Here. But the filmmaker still makes them effective thanks to some moody lighting and evocative cinematography. The house is foreboding and atmospheric, creating earned scares.
Of course, as a horror entry, The Mistress has a big twist of some kind at the end. Sometimes these surprises utterly ruin what precedes it (i.e., the finale of the first Insidious makes it feel like a waste of time). However, what Pritikin pulls off during the denouement is brilliant. It makes audiences reassess just who/what the mistress is. The twist also shines a light on past actions and gives the motion picture serious rewatchability to put the pieces together. The last few minutes are not only shockingly perfect, but they elevate the entire thing from good to bloody fantastic.
The heavy use of cliches may turn some viewers off. However, The Mistress is well-shot, and the acting is strong. The ending, though, so brilliantly upends and alters perceptions that it elevates the production into must-see territory.
For more information about The Mistress, visit its Blue Fox Entertainment page.