Ghost stories are some of the most common stories to be told, seems we have a memory as a civilization. The dead returning from the endless journey of death has fascinated us for too long. This fascination only grows into an exploration of the subject and because such a subject doesn’t have a certain answer, we keep searching. We keep telling these stories that scare us, but also keep our minds busy with the possibilities. This is a review of Surrogate, one of the latest ghost stories to reach our screens.
Surrogate is directed by David Willing and stars Kestie Morassi, Jane Badler, and Taysha Farrugia. The film tells the story of Natalie, a single mother, and nurse, that gets into a strange situation when she is diagnosed with being pregnant and having birthed a child when that never happened. After the strange event, things begin to get worse, as her home life begins to be destroyed by strange happenings in her house.
Surrogate pulls from basically every single trope that we have ever seen in horror cinema in later years. The film has some similarities with the also fantastic Resurrection, with Rebecca Hall. Surrogate places itself as a more modest film, but the directing and the acting are solid enough that the film is quite enjoyable, and some scenes are truly disturbing for those looking for something to make them scared at night.
Willing pulls off some really cool sequences in this film. With won’t name them as to make this review free from spoilers, but the one involving a séance was particularly well-made. The film begins in a clumsy way with a setup that feels more in line with films in other genres, but quickly the inciting incident makes an apparition and things start moving at a very good pace. The atmosphere also increases its creepy factor at a considerable rate. By the end, the movie just splashes itself into a horror climax that feels satisfying.
However, the middle of the film, especially what we could call the end of the second act, stalls things a bit, and the movie feels like it has lost its path for a moment. But it is only a moment, as later the story finds its direction and we are in for a ride once more. The bittersweet ending will certainly make some members of the audience feel disappointed, but in retrospect, it feels like the right ending for the story. When dealing with these unknown forces, an easy way out is not often affordable.
Visually, the movie’s cinematography creates a look that really puts you in the mood to watch a horror story. It isn’t anything lavish at all; it feels raw and real, and that is all that matters. It is great to see filmmakers achieve their goals in this sense, even when they do not have the resources that big studios have. I would say Surrogate is quite a bit scarier than most horror efforts made by big-budget studios.
The main element that makes the movie scary and unnerving is Morassi’s performance as Natalie. The actress has a lot of charm, and she carries the film on her shoulders almost completely. The secondary characters add a bit of context here and there for some scenes, but this is the Morassi’s show, and we are all here for it. The actress makes for a great scream queen and more than that. Her role as a mother in a situation that goes way over her head feels quite real, and it is also quite effective.
Natalie becomes a relatable character, and near the beginning of the story, it is easy to root for her. Especially when you know that things are going to get rough sooner rather than later. Morassi feels like someone to keep an eye on. We will see her next year in the miniseries “Black Snow” so let’s all be sure to keep an eye open for that performance.
Two of the youngest actresses in the movie, Taysha Farrugia and Ellie Stewart, do an amazing job. Horror stories dealing with kids’ fears and kids in harm’s way are always a bit more unnerving than many others. Farrugia does well in a role that could be only background, while Stewart pulls off a type of character that feels way more out there, but she still manages to make it believable. Also, props to our favorite dog, Andy, the best boy indeed.
Sadly, Surrogate solid filmmaking might pass under the radar for most viewers. It shouldn’t. There is a lot of good stuff here, and some simple concepts that are being executed in the best possible way. Yes, the movie doesn’t have big-name stars or stunning visual effects, but it doesn’t need all those things when it knows the story that it wants to tell and does it effectively.
Surrogate is an amazingly solid horror flick. It boasts an amazing lead performance by Kestie Morassi, and it will be the kind of horror film that will be loved by those looking for more obscure alternatives to the Hollywood horror formula. Don’t miss it. It is well worth a watch.