Today I will be reviewing the 2011 film The Yellow Wallpaper.
It is the first feature length film of director Logan Thomas, who has been told to have an experimental style, and this is definitely present in his horror film.
If the title sounds familiar to you, it is because the film is based off a short story by Charlotte Perkins Gilman about a woman going through postpartum psychosis. I don’t usually like to compare movies to their written roots because they are two different medias, and adaptations are allowed to have their own interpretations; that is the beauty of art.
However, there are some that come out absolutely atrocious. For example, the 2012 remake of The Woman in Black. That movie is just… awful. The Yellow Wallpaper is a whole new telling of Ms. Gilman’s story, but I believe it does it well, and it stands alone as its own independent version of the story.
It turns out the film was written in part by Aric Cushing, who is also the protagonist in the film. He plays John Weiland, a doctor who is moving into a new home with his wife and her sister after a ravaging fire takes their home and their young daughter, Sarah.
John’s wife, Charlotte (played by Juliete Landau, who co-starred in Ed Wood), has been struggling with her composure and her sanity ever since the fire. Her and John have become distant because she silently blames herself and her husband for their daughter’s death, for they were becoming “intimate” at the time the fire broke out.
Charlotte’s sister, Jennie Gilman, is portrayed by the FABULOUS Dale Dickey, seen in Winter’s Bone and Super 8. Jennie is along to provide support for Charlotte and help her through this tragedy. She is strong and kind but “over-exaggerates”, as John believes.
The film is set simply in America, 1892, and is foreboding from the start. The house that the family is carriage-bound for was told to them by a man named Mr. Hendricks, who wrote to them once he heard of the devastating fire. He seems like a nice enough guy, but Jennie gets the feeling that there are things being left unsaid.
Charlotte is troubled by apparitions of her daughter, and often retreats into the attic, a small room covered in bright yellow wallpaper. The house becomes stranger and stranger the longer they inhabit it; they are plagued by vanishing intruders and unexplainable noises. Things become too much for Jennie, who decides to leave the house for some time.
As they are left alone, John and Charlotte cease to be bothered by the entities and begin to rebuild their relationship. Their days are filled with the quiet love that they have not felt since they lost their daughter, and Charlotte insists that they remain in the house, for she can feel Sarah’s presence surrounding it.
Jennie returns, but not alone; she brings along an old friend and psychic by the name of Catherine (Veronica Cartwright, most notably seen in The Birds!), whom John and Charlotte reluctantly accept her into their house.
The first thing I noticed about this movie was its splendid dramatic score, which was done by the director himself. It carries throughout the whole movie and never gives you a moment to rest and collect your sanity. I was also impressed by the script, which Thomas and Cushing created entirely themselves since the story has very little dialogue to work with.
Overall, I was pretty pleased with the film. It wasn’t what I was expected having been familiar with the written story, but I enjoyed the story they created through inspiration of Gilman’s piece. The experimental quality was refreshing, as I prefer to not have my plots handed to me on a silver platter, and the cinematography was a mixture of soft, dusty light and lovely shadows.
The genre is definitely horror, but it is hard to say if it is a ghost story or something much stranger. Whatever it may be, it is certainly a fresh perspective on old tropes, and it is a film that will keep you on the edge of your seat, and on the brink of insanity.
“Through watching so much at night, when it changes so, I have finally found out. The front pattern does move -- and no wonder! The woman behind shakes it!” –Charlotte Perkins Gilman
*Review by MR