Review by Joseph Fayed
A story built upon the foundation of a certain historical period is far more difficult to convey than a story set during a specific time period. Peacock, a South African gothic horror, blurs its lines between past and present, and the results are a mixed bag.
After being dismissed from her school, Anna is sent to be the caretaker for an elderly man, Sarel Cilliers, on his remote farm. As soon as Anna settles in, Sarel begins going on bizarre rants and has disturbing visions and hallucinations. Sarel's behavior leads Anna to think something deeper lies within the farm and how it ties into her own past.
This type of gothic horror is inherently lazy. Sarel's hallucinations look like they were filmed as part of a Children of the Corn sequel. Low budget aside, it was clear that the "threat" was nothing more than a poor horror trope rather than something that could have tied in with South African folklore. I thought the landscape was underutilized, too. While I think there's more to explore in horror than a setting like a haunted house, a remote setting is meant to be bleak and isolating. Without that, Sarel comes across as just a kooky old man who lives alone.
Tarryn Wyngaard's performance as Anna was perfectly distraught and carries the film. Her expressions can really capture both timid nature and exhaustion quite well. She had me convinced she despised watching over Sarel, as I would too. However, Anna's backstory is woefully underdeveloped. The single significant event from her past isn't fleshed out enough to better understand where she comes from. This is most noticeable when she befriends another character named Jean. Her encounter with Jean feels out of place and very rushed. There is a notable lack of chemistry between Anna and Jean during his brief screen time. This placement in the final act sticks out like a sore thumb because intimacy was clearly not fathomable between those two.
Peacock is a gothic horror with a neat color palette behind its cinematography. The story simply isn't scary enough to justify its existence. It can't decide what fears it wants to expose its viewers to. Impressive acting feels wasted on a script that isn't very subtle about what secrets are being kept from its audience. This genre of horror tends to try to elevate itself above the rest of horror because it relies on being "bleak," but this film is no different than a lackluster haunted house-themed popcorn pleaser. The only difference is box office results. The scare tactics in this get old really fast, and any pretty peacock with its beautiful feathers shown on screen can't prevent the film from being too barren even for its gothic backdrop.
Peacock is now streaming on IndiePix Unlimited.