Don’t Say Its Name

A horror film set in the snow, and an official Fantasia Film Fest pick.

The Premise: Band peace officer Betty (Madison Walsh) is quickly overwhelmed when a hit and run goes unsolved, its victim a young community activist named Kharis (Sheena Kaine). Meanwhile, the community is also grappling with a mining company come to suck their tribal land dry. Even more concerning: some invisible predator is stalking and brutally killing one person after the next. Betty quickly deputizes game warden Stacey (Sera-Lys McArthur) to help hunt a killer who leaves very few tracks. No one is safe, and no one can quite agree whether these murders are the stuff of legend, but either way it seems one strict rule can be agreed upon: don’t say its name.

The Verdict: I had my doubts, but director (and co-writer) Rueben Martell pulls off his horror with aplomb. Its indigenous setting is rich and authentic, a natural backdrop for some terrifying First Nations traditions. Its unique perspective is augmented by a trio of strong female leads, with an especially admirable and grounded performance from Walsh, who calmly stands in the centre of the storm and bravely gets on with the job. From the very first scene, I was stunned by the film’s truth. Canada’s First Nations communities continue to be haunted by its missing and murdered women and girls, and the sight of Kharis walking alone along a dark road is eerily familiar. Spooks and spirits may plague this small community, but it’s the white man who truly poses the threat, wreaking havoc on the people and their native land in far more lasting and concrete ways.

Join us after the screening on August 18 at 9:10pm EDT for a live Q&A with special guest host Jesse Wente, director Rueben Martell, actors Sera-Lys McArthur, Julian Black Antelope, Val Duncan, Catherine Gell, Justin Lewis and Sheena Kaine, and producer Rene J. Collins.

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