Enys Men is a hypnotic folklore horror film that you more so experience than watch. Mark Jenkin’s film wraps you fully into its nightmarish atmosphere by building a sense of dread, mystery, and fear around you.
Folklore horror films have risen in popularity over the last few years, but Enys Men is unlike any film you’ve seen before. Mark Jenkin’s second feature film is an intoxicating, consuming experience that feels lived-in as it’s shot on 16 mm stock but has something entirely new to say. Enys Men (pronounced “Ennis Main,” meaning “Stone Island” in Cornish) transports audiences back to 1973 with its grain and finish, making the film feel like it was really shot in the time period it’s set in. The film is mostly muted colors allowing the pops of red throughout to truly pop, including the red rain jacket that is habitual of our main character, who goes unnamed in the film, ‘Volunteer’ (Mary Woodvine).
There’s an overwhelming sense of unease in the film as we follow Volunteer through strange close ups and disorientating editing. She lives in a rundown cottage powered by a rickety generator. Every morning, wearing her red raincoat, she heads down the dirt path towards a cliff and studies flowers growing on the edge. Enys Men follows her daily routine until we see her notice an open mineshaft on her journey home one day and her curiosity get the best of her as she drops a rock inside and waits to hear the rock land in the water below. She adds this to her daily routine. As the film goes on, her routine has crevices thrown in it, and with each crack in the routine, the Volunteer is thrown off. Her daily update of ‘no change’ feels part of the ritual, and once there is a disruption to her daily routine, a dreadful unease overtakes the film.
The film hinges on Woodvine’s performance as there is very little dialogue throughout the film, and she carries the bulk of the performance with her expressions, gestures, and body language. When she does deliver lines, it feels like they’re coming from somewhere else; it’s otherworldly and hypnotic. Enys Men is structured as all-show-and-no-tell as it sets up various mysteries throughout the film that the audience is responsible for unpacking. There are no quick answers given in the film for what exactly is going on or what it is trying to say.
Part of what makes the film work is that the entire film looks and feels like a dream bleeding into reality. In Enys Men, the Volunteer is suffering from confusion of the same feeling; are her dreams real? What is reality? Her unraveling as she tries to cling to reality and not fall succumb to any delusions is enhanced by the mesmerizing score and use of sound throughout the film. The entire film feels like a fever dream as it is some of the most experimental filmmaking in years.
Enys Men is directed by Jenkin, who is also behind the film’s script, editing, cinematography, sound, and score. The use of the 16 mm film creates an authentic feel to the 70s in which the film takes place, but it also provides a dizzying effect to truly make the film feel mystifying and hypnotic. The film challenges its audience by only presenting ideas and questions more so than any answers. Logical explanations for why strange events unfold are just heavily implied.
Should be Considered: Best Sound, Best Cinematography, Best Original Score
Release Date: March 31, 2023
Where to Watch: In Select Theaters
Lives in LA with her husband, daughter and dog. Misses Arclight, loves iced vanilla coffees.
Favorite Director: Darren Aronofsky
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