Some moments almost feel like they belong in a Wim Wenders production, with women talking to each other covered in red light, trying to reach beyond themselves with speech. A David Lynch-esque sound design of sinister echoes and oozing ambiance adds dimension and dread to the proceedings. There is also an avoidance of humor, which is appropriate for the subject matter. Purvis is allowed to pursue the hard drama in a lead role that could have easily dissolved into high camp and does a damn good job. Whether she’s shooting up by the seaside or ripping a pimp’s throat out, she plays it deadly serious and really burns into the screen. Her scenes of body horror are some of the scariest, with excellent makeup effects bolstering her performance as the actor reacts to her skin falling off.
While it is ambitious, Medusa is not entirely successful as a horror film. A lot of the critical killing sequences feel underdone or unrealized, especially since these scenes are the focus of the genre. Also, there is not enough brutality by the traffickers to sustain the energy the revenge picture needs to maximize the catharsis of the deaths. You can hate the traffickers on principal, but it doesn’t get you as emotionally involved in their comeuppance. However, skimping on brutality is also walking away from chances to build sympathy for your main characters.
“…an unusual and refreshing approach to the horror movie form not seen too often.”
Frustratingly, the positive elements fail to gel into a satisfying whole. The final sequence should have raised goosebumps. Instead, it is unintentionally funny, as there is engagement failure. Also, the mysterious figure who figures into the story, Alexis (Jamila Wingett), is dressed and shot in a way reminiscent of how Russ Meyer filmed Raven De La Croix in Up! It isn’t appropriate to the character and adds a cheesecake factor that clashes with the way the other women are portrayed. The overall unsatisfied feeling one gets from Medusa is the same one you get from the films of Jess Franco’s frustrating ruined orgasm period, like Faceless and Oasis of the Zombies.
Medusa has an unusual and refreshing approach to the horror movie form not seen too often. Such efforts need to be applauded, as it is this impulse to elevate the genre that keeps horror the dark visionary field it can and should be. While not an instant classic, it is a valiant first effort and will no doubt be improved upon in Matthew B.C.’s future work. Whether its structural innovations and stylistic divergences eclipse its weaknesses is going to be up to the viewer. Just be prepared to have your expectations be twisted up like a headful of snakes.
"…be prepared to have your expectations be twisted up like a headful of snakes."