Master: Why Amazon’s Latest Horror Movie Is The Most Unsettling Movie Since Get Out

Master (18+, 91mins) Directed by Mariama Diallo ****½

A school as old as the country itself, America’s Ancaster College has a proud history. Two US presidents and a number of senators have passed through its hallowed halls.

But, as new student Jasmine Moore (Zoe Renee) is about to discover, there’s also a dark shadow hanging over it.

Built on a site where Margaret Millett was hanged for witchcraft, a string of student deaths at Belleville House over the years have been traced to her revenge-seeking ghost. Jasmine was assigned to the infamous room 302, where, in the 1960s, the university’s first black student died under suspicious circumstances.

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“The whole school is cursed,” an older student tells her. “A witch chooses a freshman every year and, one morning, at 3:33 sharp, takes them with her to hell.”

It’s a story Gail Bishop (Regina Hall), newly appointed Master of Belleville House, has heard before – and laughs.

“The only thing that will haunt you this year is that extra slice of pizza,” she told those close to her.

However, some things about her own new digs on campus got her on edge. The main door takes a while to open, the bells ring mysteriously, and the historic house is apparently infested with maggots, spoiling even the specially commissioned portrait of her.

Zoe Renee plays Jasmine Moore, a troubled freshman at Ancaster College, in Master.

Provided

Zoe Renee plays Jasmine Moore, a troubled freshman at Ancaster College, in Master.

As Jasmine struggles with vivid dreams, broken sleep, and sets off the library alarm, she asks for Gail’s help when she’s angry at the F grade given to her by English literature professor Liv Beckman. (Amber Gray) for a critical analysis of the race of The scarlet letter.

It’s a situation that puts Gail in an awkward position. Liv is her friend and any ongoing disputes could well threaten her pending tenure application. But, even as Gail’s peers insist the matter be cleared up immediately, events on campus escalate as a noose appears affixed to Jasmine’s dorm door and a cross is burned on the lawn outside. So when Liv gets wind of the case against her, she loses the plot.

“Why is this institution more interested in ousting me than finding the racist who harasses the student body?” “That’s not a incident – it’s an emergency.”

Regina Hall is superb as Master Gail Bishop.

Provided

Regina Hall is superb as Master Gail Bishop.

At the basic level, a kind of Black Christmas-meets-get out and A Nightmare on Elm Street Passing by The human stainWriter-director Mariama Diallo’s feature debut is a beautifully crafted and superbly executed allegorical horror that will stay with you for days.

At its heart are two tremendous performances by The hate you give‘s Hall and Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase‘s Renee, who ensure that their characters are more than just archetypes or scream queens, but rather three-dimensional characters who, yes, have flaws, but also find themselves in an increasingly impossible situation or dangerous.

Diallo does a fabulous job of drawing us into the cloistered world of college, at first glance an inclusive place, which is in fact quite the opposite (as highlighted in a hilarious promo video featuring our main cast).

Master is a beautifully crafted and superbly executed allegorical horror that will stick with you for days.

Provided

Master is a beautifully crafted and superbly executed allegorical horror that will stick with you for days.

Jordan Peele would be proud of how Diallo highlights the unconscious bias and racism of Jasmine’s supposedly woke classmates and Gail’s fellow teachers, as the pair are enthusiastically compared to Beyonce, the Williams sisters, Lizzo and Obama, but it really is a movie with its own style and swagger.

With another hilarious 2022 use of Christopher Cross’s anthem Roll like the wind (a song previously featured in the Scandinavian romantic comedy The worst person in the world), images that are evocative and provocative and create a beautiful tension until it memorably overflows, Master is one of the most effective and thought-provoking horror films of recent years.

As Gail so powerfully expresses the film’s underlying message, “these aren’t ghosts, they’re not supernatural. This is America – and it’s everywhere”.

Master is now streaming on Amazon Prime Video.

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