Color, 2017, 102 mins. 42 secs.
Directed by Lukas Feigelfeld
Starring Aleksandra Cwen, Celina Peter, Claudia Martini, Tanja Petrovsky
Doppelganger Releasing (Blu-ray and DVD) (US RA/R1 HD), Indeed Film (Blu-ray and DVD) (Germany RB/R2 HD/PAL) / WS (2.35:1) (16:9)

The Hagazussaongoing popularity of Hagazussafolk horror around the world doesn't seem to show any signs of slowing down this decade with the likes of The Witch, Sennentuntschi, Midsommar, and The Ritual offering different spins on pagan-themed tales of terror. To that list you can add Hagazussa, a slow-burning, German-language occult offering centered around a young woman's deterioration (in multiple senses of the word) in a remote 15th-century mountain dwelling.

The film centers around the evolution of Albrun (Cwen), whose childhood ended traumatically with the bizarre, body horror-laden fate of her mother (Martini). Once she bears a baby and becomes friends with the local Swinda (Petrovsky), Albrun comes to realize that there may have been something after all to the villagers' declarations that her mother was a witch, and soon her dark family heritage comes to bear down on her with a truly horrific weight.

Beautifully shot and highly atmospheric, Hagazussa (sometimes given the subtitle A Heathen's Curse) doesn't really aim to satisfy as a traditional horror film; instead it's a studied look at female identity and psychological oppression in an isolated setting, something that's been a mainstay of genre cinema going back decades. It's also open to interpretation Hagazussaon Hagazussaseveral fronts as it speeds to a finale that wouldn't feel out of place in a Lars Von Trier film, with Cwen giving a committed and sometimes piercing performance that holds it all together. Incredibly, this was the first feature for director Lukas Feigelfeld and also his film school graduation project, so they must be doing something pretty crazy in those classrooms.

Hagazussa first appeared on Blu-ray and DVD in Germany in an English-friendly edition that's more or less what you also get in the U.S. edition from Doppelganger Releasing and Bloody Disgusting. The digitally-shot production is very clean and crisp as you'd expect for a recent feature, perhaps jarringly so at times considering the rough-hewn nature of the subject matter. It looks great though with the landscape shots in particular offering a pleasing level of detail. Audio options include German DTS-HD MA 5.1 and 2.0 (with optional English subtitles), with the former doing a particularly intense job of handling the unorthodox, sometimes abrasive score.

HagazussaA selected director's English-language Hagazussaaudio commentary can be played as one stream or divided into four sections totaling 34m35s (with some interesting insight into some of the symbolism and themes he was shooting for), while a deleted scene (2m38s) also features optional commentary. A very low-key MMMD music video, the theatrical trailer, and a bonus Feigelfeld modern-day short film, "Interferenz" (48m33s), which features more dialogue than the entire main feature, are also included along with bonus trailers for Summer of Fear, Penance, and Alleluia.

Reviewed on May 6, 2019.