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By Alan Ng | September 7, 2020

Filmmakers Aditya J. Patwardhan and Nicole Cannon’s Transference uses the indie horror/ thriller genre to address a more significant issue in society. Of course, revealing that bigger issue would spoil the film, but trust me, it’s big.

Transference is the story of trauma therapist Camille (Lauren Buglioli) as she travels to her hometown with husband Malcolm (Seth Michaels) and two children, Barry and Sadie (Corin Scialabba and Amelie McLain). They’re here for the funeral of Camille’s estranged father. The vibe chills quickly upon reuniting with step-mother Margaret (Virginia Kirby) and sister Shelly (Deborah Jane), both expressing disappointment of Camille’s absence from the family these past few years.

As with any good horror/thriller, Camille’s childhood home appears to be haunted. Daughter Sadie claims to see a young girl named Piper on the porch swing. Camille spots her old doll, also named Piper, and thinks Sadie is talking to the doll…but she’s not. The camera briefly swings out to see an apparition playing by the dollhouse with Sadie.

As the family heads home, Sadie takes the Piper doll with her and, of course, the spirit follows the family home. It starts to follow Camille everywhere, including her office late at night. Who is the spirit? What is this spirit? Why is Piper haunting Camille’s dreams?

“Camille..thinks Sadie is talking to the doll…but she’s not.”

Transference takes its lead from films like The Sixth Sense. There’s a horrifying spirit following Sadie and Camille, a couple of jump scares and false jump scares, and then the mystery to solve at the end surrounding Camille and her history with Piper. If you’re a fan of light horror/ psychological/ supernatural thrillers, then I recommend this film. The story is structured well, the acting is good, and it builds some nice tense moments.

The mystery itself and the reveal makes Transference more of a psychological thriller than a horror flick. I don’t have a problem necessarily with switching genres as a way to hook an audience in and play around with horror elements as there is no hard-and-fast rule to working with the genre.

The final reveal is not overly mind-blowing and may be predictable to the astute. Still, it does address a problem that plagues society. Having some second-hand knowledge of it, I like how writer Cannon was able to use this issue to tell a horror/ thriller, but keep it truthful to the topic (yes, I’m being intentionally vague here). Both Parwardhan and Cannon tell a clever story, and I like that.

I don’t want to oversell Transference. It definitely falls in both the good and creative categories, but it’s not mind-blowing at all. It doesn’t push the horror hard enough to be called horror. I also would have liked more creep factor. All this to say: the film is pretty tame but has its moments. Also, there are plot holes, but it’s rare that a movie doesn’t have any. For example, if a ghost—that you can’t see—appears out of nowhere—and you don’t see it—does that ghost exist, or do you need your meds adjusted?

I like how the film addresses the big “issue” while playing around with genre. Though it could have gone farther, it’s clear that Cannon and Patwardhan did their research and skillfully worked it into the story. The result makes Transference worth watching.

Transference (2020)

Directed: Aditya J. Patwardhan

Written: Nicole Cannon

Starring: Lauren Buglioli, Seth Michaels, Amelie McLain, Corin Schialabba, Remi Cannon, etc.

Movie score: 7/10

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"…it does address a problem that plagues society…"

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