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Hipster Holy Grail: The Enchanted (1984)

The Hipster Holy Grail is my ongoing quest to review an obscure movie before it becomes cool to talk about it. Good, bad, doesn't matter.  It just has to be at least 10 years old and have less than 1,000 ratings on IMDb. This week, I watched....

The Short Bit for People Who Don't Like to Read Reviews

The Enchanted is a wonderful little supernatural story with a tightly-focused plot, absorbing visuals, and a very relaxed pace.  I wish I had watched it for almost any other day besides today, though.

My Rating: 3.5 / 5

The Plot Summary

Yeah, I know I kinda promised more TJ Roberts this week, what with my last three movies being a bit of a theme.  But y'know what?  I'm pretty sure I'm not going to find something to top A Dangerous Game, and besides, I don't know when the Holy Grail is going to fall on a Halloween again.  So let's take a look at something that's a little more season appropriate.

Sort of.

This week I watched The Enchanted, an independent film that's a bit hard to classify.  The first thing I should make clear is that although it has some eerie elements, it's a stretch to call this one "horror."  It's more like a somber fairy tale than anything else.  But since I committed to watching it based on the genre listed on IMDb, it'll have to do.  Happy Halloween, all.

The Enchanted takes place in a rural area of Florida called "Hole in the Wall," a remote, heavily-forested patch of farm land far from the beaten path.  We open with some narration from Booker (Julius Harris), one of the few locals, as we see him go about his day-to-day routine.  He tells us how life is simple here, but the woods of Hole in the Wall have their fair share of secrets, some of which may possibly be upsetting.  Maybe.

Booker seems to have HitW almost all to himself.  He spends most of his time fishing, hunting, and chatting to his dog, Pete, while enjoying the nature all around him.  Once in awhile, though, he interacts with the Perdry family.  The Perdrys are a strange bunch - maybe seven or eight of them altogether, and they are a quiet, skittish clan of waifs who mostly keep to themselves.

One day, Royce Hagan (Will Sennett), a former resident who's been away on some worldly adventures for a few years, comes back to HitW to retake ownership of a family farm that's been sitting unused.  Booker is an old friend of the Hagan family and gives Royce a warm welcome.  They catch up for awhile and Royce explains that he came back to start a cattle ranch.  Booker helps him with a few odd jobs around the farm while he gets settled in.

Enter the Perdrys.  Booker has a tense, almost superstitious, aversion to them.  The Perdrys offer to do some work around the farm for Royce, but Booker warns Royce to be cautious around them.  There's no harm in letting them work, he says, but Royce needs to keep his distance; there's something strange about them.

Now, let this be a lesson to you.  If you're ever in a potentially upsetting situation where you're trying to warn somebody about a possible pitfall, be specific.  Booker never gives any detail about the Perdrys or says anything too helpful, so Royce just chalks his apprehension up to being an old man, and he welcomes the Perdrys onto his land.

Cue a montage of them working and getting friendly. Royce notices a few oddities about the Perdrys, to be sure - they're sort of hippie-ish, they don't eat meat, they all seem nervous about something, and they keep dropping awkward references to their "natural lives."  But they're friendly and hard-working, so Royce likes them well enough.

He particularly likes Twyla Perdry (Casey Blanton), one of the daughters of the Perdry patriarch.  Royce and Twyla make goo goo eyes at each other and flirt awkwardly. Before too long, they're spending a lot of time alone together. Booker likes none of it - he warns Royce again not to get too close and gets cranky that his ambiguous warnings are going unheeded.

And now we start with the borderline-spooky stuff.  The Enchanted makes use of Evil Dead-esque point-of-view tracking shots through the woods to let us know that something insidious is lurking out there.  Whatever it is, it starts attacking Royce's cattle.  Every now and again for the next forty minutes or so, we'll get one of these tracking shots and it ends with Royce discovering that another one of his calves has been killed.

Royce determines that a wolf is behind the attacks.  He tries to hunt it down whenever he's not busy with his day-to-day ranching business and he gets Booker's help when he can.  And while they're not having much luck with the wolf situation, Royce's blossoming love with Twyla is thriving.

Before too long, Twyla has moved into his house and is making herself at home.  There's a spare room in the back that becomes a craft room for her, where she decks at least one wall with sheer drapery and paints a detailed mural on the rest.  Turns out Twyla is quite the artist.

For a little while, life is pretty good for Royce.  (Other than that wolf situation.)  He and Twyla live a laid-back, romantic life in the woods.

Then Twyla starts acting a little bit weird.  It's not clear which of her quirks Royce sees, but we get to watch as she freaks out a couple of times over some seemingly arbitrary stuff, including an adorable cat that scares her and reduces her to tears, and a chicken carcass left over from Royce's dinner that drives her to nausea.

One night, Booker comes to Royce and lets him know that the wolf has struck again, but Pete has picked up the wolf's scent.  Royce grabs his rifle and they're off on another hunt.  It lasts through the night and well into the next day, until eventually Royce and Booker corner the wolf on opposite sides of a clearing.  The plan is that Royce will shoot first, and if he misses, Booker will shoot when the wolf runs in his direction.

We hear Royce's gun fire.  Then we see a wolf run through the clearing, and Booker hesitates to pull the trigger.  He ultimately doesn't fire at all, then regroups with Royce, who reveals that he did kill a wolf.  Turns out there were two of them the whole time.

When they return to Royce's house, they find that Twyla has left.  But before she left, she painted over the mural in her craft room.  Where it once depicted a pleasant and stylized series of memories of her and Royce, it now shows a grim vision of Royce killing various animals.

Booker gives Royce another vague and cryptic, "I told you not to get involved with these people" speech, and then Royce goes off to the Perdry house to try to find Twyla.  When he gets there, he sees all the Perdrys, dressed in white robes, sitting on the floor inside a hut that's been wrapped up with sheer cloth.  They're speaking to each other about "returning," and just as Royce makes eye contact with Twyla, she urges them all to leave.  The hut flashes with an intense, blinding light, and the Perdrys have all vanished.  In their place is a flock of birds that flutter away.

We fade into more voiceover from Booker while we watch the wolf - the one that lived - stop and lick up some water from a stream.  Booker explains that he knew the Perdrys would never make it as humans because they were too weak and frightened.  The camera cuts away to some other nature footage as he warns us that Hole in the Wall has plenty of other secrets. Then we cut back to the stream - only now there is a nude woman sitting in it, looking over her shoulder nervously.

What I Liked / Didn't Like

The Enchanted is a very laid-back movie.  This is both a positive and a negative; I think it depends on what kind of movie you want.

On the one hand, the gentle tone gives it a beautiful, ethereal quality.  Much of it has a dreamlike feel that I imagine filmmakers always hope to achieve when they make something fantastical.  Major credit goes to the set design and cinematography, which gives it a fuzzy, kind of bleary look.

Part of this can also be attributed to the editing and pacing, which are done in such a way that the passage of time never feels real.  You understand that things are happening, but you can't quite tell how fast.  Have Royce and Twyla been dating for weeks, or just a couple of days?  Have Royce and Booker been hunting that wolf all week, or just for the night?

So, if the intent is to create a hypnotic fairy tale, then The Enchanted did a great job. It feels like somebody crafted a gorgeous painting of "The Princess and The Frog" or some other bit of folklore, and I liked that quite a bit.

On the other hand... this is a sloooooooow movie.  Some people are into that kind of thing.  I'm usually not.

I'll give credit where credit's due - if a movie is gorgeous and hits a tone well, I can respect that.  I just don't know that I'll want to revisit it if I know how long it feels.  (Speaking of not understanding the passage of time - The Enchanted is only 90 minutes and it feels like two and a half hours.)

My reluctance to fully embrace this one isn't really the movie's fault.  The problem is that I saw that it was described as a creepy horror movie, and that's not what it is at all.  If you go into this expecting horror, you will be disappointed.  Take it as an art-house piece or a living painting and you'll enjoy it.

How Much Hipster Cred Is It Worth?

It gets the full obscurity bonus of 50 points, since it has less than 100 ratings on IMDb.  I'll give it another 15 point "you don't know them" bonus since the cast and crew is almost entirely unknown, except for Julius Harris, who was himself something of an obscure regular.

And what the hell, I'll give it another 15 points for half a recommendation bonus; it's worth watching, just not necessarily on Halloween.

That adds up to 80 hipster cred out of a possible 100.  It's definitely high up there and a good choice if you're trying to name drop something when you're talking to film snobs.

Where You Can Watch

The Enchanted is technically available on DVD, but it looks like you'll have to order it directly from the distributor if you want to buy a copy.  Alternately, you can peek online now and again to see if you can find it on Youtube, though I probably shouldn't be recommending that in the same paragraph where I'm linking to the producers' direct channel.