By Marc S. Sanders
In high school my favorite writer/poet of American literature was Edgar Allen Poe. He had the colorful, yet dark, ideas of men who drown their brilliance in their subconscious madness. Having recently been invited to watch a film called Legend Of The Muse, brought back many memories of staying up past my bedtime with a flashlight in hand reading some of Poe’s best short stories while under the covers.
This film focuses on an artistic painter named Adam (Riley Egan) who is a loner relegated to his studio apartment with a messy drop cloth and blank canvases. His pale complexion tells us that his only escape appears to be the dreams or hallucinations he has for the unfortunate demise of two thugs stuck in the woods with a flat tire. These men appear to be terrorized by a strikingly beautiful entity who appears and disappears, only to reappear again for some haunts that startle Adam out of his sleep. Only after awakening, does Adam get the inspiration to paint dark, macabre images of the beautiful, almost naked girl in his dreams.
An intimidating neighbor of Adam’s coerces him to drive him out to a wooded location where a drug delivery has gone wrong. It is there that Adam connects the dots between his dreams and what actually happened to those two men.
The Muse, this beautiful girl that we’ve caught glimpses of, takes up dwelling in Adam’s apartment, and as he becomes more adept and appreciated for his haunting and visual paintings, he becomes drawn to her with passionate, sexual escapades. The problem becomes that now no one can interfere with or threaten Adam or else the Muse will strike. As well, no one can become attached to Adam. Adam belongs only to the Muse.
Now this might sound like a Friday The 13th or Fatal Attraction kind of thriller. However, director and writer John Burr takes a different approach. For one thing, Adam as a protagonist is short on dialogue in the picture. It should be that way, as he’s a lonely and depressed person with no one to talk to or emote with. So Burr resorts to effective close ups of Riley Egan to highlight his isolation and state of mind. There are periods where the most frightening occurrences are Adam with his blank stares and canvases. How can he ever escape this void? Being a playwright myself, I related to Egan’s performance, faced with debilitating writer’s block at times. The thrills of the picture pay off as Adam grows dependent on the Muse to eliminate his threats and inspire new art. It’s a nice arc for the character.
With even fewer lines (actually none), the Muse is played beautifully with a goose bump measure of fright from actress Elle Evans. There’s a more fanciful name for this possessive Muse known as “Leannan Si.” It’s apparent that John Burr was directing more so with imagery, rather than dialogue. His use of light, blood, paint, nudity and the eyes of Leannan Si stay with you and carry on a running theme throughout the film. His camera really works well with Elle Evans, with cinematography from Damian Horan. If this film would ever lead to a franchise, this could be the role Evans could profit off of for many years to come. It’s a much more sophisticated and artistic interpretation of a Freddy Krueger or Michael Myers like boogeyman. Evans seems to have invented a new kind of scare off of Burr’s screenplay.
I do not know much about how Legend Of The Muse was produced, perhaps on a small budget. Yet John Burr’s crew are resourceful within the limits of their production locations. The weakness of the film may fall within some members of the supporting cast who are given more dialogue than the two leads. Particularly, the various bullies that intimidate Adam may be trying too hard, and that took me away momentarily from the quiet sophistication of the picture. Some of them seemed like the bad guys of the week on an episode of The A Team.
Nonetheless, there are good performances from Jennie Fahn as an art gallery dealer who effectively narrates the purpose of Leannan Si’s relationship with the artist. Much like Poe, she’s poetic and eerie in her exposition. I also like actor Kate Mansi as Maria, the neighbor who takes an interest in Adam. John Burr was wise not to write either character as simple damsels in distress. There’s dimension to these ladies, much like the Muse. They are not just teenage girls running away from a killer. One provides the narrative from her character’s knowledge and experience. The other offers a motivation for Adam to invest in a personal relationship.
Considering the limited options we have amid the current pandemic, Legend Of The Muse is worth a rental to watch at home. If you find an open movie house in your area showing the picture…even better. It’s an atmospheric film with colorful imagination of a new kind of supernatural. John Burr is a visual director who makes good use of camera angles that effectively accompany the bright hues of yellow and white from Damian Horan who also does well with night scenes too. A spooky, synth like feel to the soundtrack from Alexander Rudd works nicely for building some suspense.
I’m aware I’m heavy on the compliments for this picture. Maybe more than other reviews. More importantly, I promise I’m being totally genuine as well. Why? Well, I’d like this film to build momentum and get an audience or a following. I think it deserves it as the hard work shows on the screen. I want this picture to succeed.
As I’ve admitted before, horror is far from my favorite genre. It unsettles me more often than not, and that’s usually not entertaining for me. Yet, Legend Of The Muse is not a bloodbath slasher film, either. The body count rises as the film progresses, sure. Yet, it lends to a developing story. It’s not just there to show me an accomplishment with grotesque makeup and pools of blood. Burr focuses his strengths for storytelling with Hitchcockian devices (particularly from Rear Window) and once again the best works of Edgar Allen Poe.
Legend Of The Muse should be sought out, and you can rent or purchase the film right now on Amazon Prime or Vimeo. It’s a great bedtime story for a rainy Saturday night.