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  • jennabwilen28 July 2020
    'Legend of the Muse' is a critically-acclaimed psychological thriller that has played at over 28 film festivals around the world, collecting awards for best feature, best screenplay, and audience choice, among other accolades.

    Shot on a 15-day schedule, the feature is a slow burn, yet alluring as a psychological thriller. Artsy horror.
  • This was a movie that I had the pleasure of seeing when the film company behind it reached out asking if I was interested in watching it for a review. Since I enjoy seeing more of the independent movies, I agreed and was sent a screener. It has an interesting premise as well that is grounded in mythology, which I'm also a fan of. The synopsis though is a painter's life is changed forever when a mythical and deadly spirit from Celtic lore becomes his muse and lover.

    We start with two guys that have a flat tire on their truck. They're stranded in the middle of nowhere. One of them goes out in the woods as he hears something. It is there he encounters an emaciated man with a harmonica.

    The movie takes us to a dream sequence where we see a woman's eyes and we get a flash of her. This is our main character of Adam (Riley Egan). He is a struggling painter who lives in a studio apartment. He has a crush on the girl across the way, Maria (Kate Mansi). He is lacking in his confidence though. Something I liked here is that we get quite a bit of it through facial reactions as well as a scene where his landlord informs him his rent has gone up and he needs it now. His landlord is Lance (Phil Abrams). We get an interesting duality here though is a new resident Hector (Max Decker) bullies Lance.

    Adam goes up to the roof where Hector gives him a proposition to help inspire him. He believes you can't sit up on the roof like he's doing if he wants to be great. There's an interesting aspect here where Hector shows a tattoo he has on his forearm of a tree that Adam drew in his sketchpad before they met. Hector tells Adam he can make some money if he drives him that night and it just takes 2 hours.

    As Adam heads back to his room, he bumps into Maria. She sees his sketchpad and notices a drawing of her. She invites him to a local gallery where a showing is happening. Adam agrees to come, partly for her and for the networking opportunity. It is there we meet Maria's boyfriend, Jason Block (Lou Ferrigno Jr.). It is his showing and he's quite arrogant. This encounter doesn't help Adam's self-esteem. It isn't all bad though as he runs into Valerie (Jennie Fahn). She's the owner and she can see something in him. He just needs to find his muse.

    He goes home and that night he sees Maria and Jason hooking up through the window. This pushes Adam to seek out Hector about his proposition. They drive to the middle of nowhere and it turns out that Hector is a drug dealer. Adam is his driver. While he's waiting, he goes out into he woods. He hears something, but when there's yelling as the deal goes bad, they flee. They don't get far when Adam sees the woman from his dream. He spins out causing Hector to freak out. He ends up shooting at the woman.

    Once again, Adam wakes up in his apartment. There is also a new painting in his room of the woman he saw the night before. The woman then appears in his room. Hector is upset when he learns that she is at his place, since she saw what he did. This isn't just an ordinary woman though. Valerie calls her Leannán Sí. Is she real or just in Adam's head?

    Now that's where I want to leave my recap, I think that leaves the jist of what we're working with here. To go back to what I said earlier, when I first saw the title, I was excited as I like mythology. From my understanding there are muses in Greek and probably Roman mythology as there's a lot of cross-over there. It wasn't until watching this movie that I learned they are also in Celtic history. I shouldn't be surprised as there is a lot of overlapping and the many of the stories have their variations. One of my favorite characters becomes Valerie for the reason of sharing this information to progress things.

    My first real introduction to what a muse was though was from the Albert Brooks' film The Muse starring Sharon Stone. I then learned about them from class and me just doing my own research. I like what they do with here though and expanding more to the Celtic history of them. The Leannán Sí will kill anyone who tries to come between her and the one that she is latched on to. Now I make it sound bad. Adam or any other artist is drawn to her, it helps them proceed the best work of their lives, but they just live short spans for that greatness. They also get to have sex with her, which as a male, good for them. This does play some interesting things with those that try to get in her way or his way in the movie.

    Something else I found interesting is that we get a look at the art community. Now clearly if you follow me, you know I love film and I do have some pretentious taste at times. The painting community from everything I've seen in movies isn't for me. I'd say this is up there with Velvet Buzzsaw in presenting this as well.

    Since we're talking about the community, I'll shift this over to the acting. I think they did a really good job in the performances across the board. I'm really impressed with Egan and his ability to convey a lot with his body language and facial expressions. He looks defeated and no self-confidence until he meets the Leannán Sí. From there it is such a change. I was impressed with Evans in that role as well. She is nude quite a bit and I'm thankful for that. She doesn't have any lines though so again, all through facial and body expression. Mansi is also quite attractive. My only issue is that I feel like she is coming on to Adam from the beginning. We see that her boyfriend is a jerk so I guess it is possible, but it feels a bit off. I do think though that low key, Fahn really steals the show as the best character for what she does for Adam and providing the mythology. Decker, Ferrigno, Abrams and the rest of the cast rounded this out for was needed as well.

    Really the last thing to cover would the effects and how things are edited together. Most of the deaths we get are done off-screen which is fine. I think many of them are just the same thing repeatedly. The blood looks good though. We do get to see some people stabbed with a painting tool which works. It is a bit unbelievable what Adam does with the bodies; I do have to admit that. If I do have an issue, we use way too many dream sequences. That is a troupe that is played out in my opinion. I think the editing is fine, but that is just where my issue comes from.

    Now with that said, I came in not sure what to expect with this movie and ended up really enjoying it. I thought it has a solid little premise that is grounded in mythology and what they do with it works. There's not a lot to the story and I think a lot of what works here is the acting. I think that Egan, Evans and Fahn are all good. The rest are solid in support. There aren't a lot in the way of effects, but it doesn't need them and the soundtrack fits for what was needed. Just lacking some aspects to be good in my opinion, but I'd say that this is an above average film for sure. I would recommend it as well.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    The inspirational goddesses of literature, science, and the arts, a Muse, a female deity who infuses man with the gift of poetry and song, began as a source of myth and legend in Greek culture, then spread to Roman culture. That Greco-Roman concept of supernatural inspiration inspired Irish poet W.B Yeats to expose the modern world to the leannán sídhe, aka "Fairy-Love," a beautiful, vampiric female who seeks out creative souls, i.e., painters or poets, musicians or writers, to be her lover; in exchange for the artist's devotion, the muse will bless them with artistic inspiration - as the artist spirals into a love of madness and, eventually, death.

    Thrust into this supernatural vortex is the socially-awkward Adam (which returns us to the biblical story of Eve, The Garden, Adam's first wife, and the first "muse," if you will: Lilith), an artist with technical talents to spare, but he lacks the heart to transform into an artist of distinction. Desperate for cash (another rent increase on his cavernous studio hovel), he drives his seedy neighbor into the woods to do a drug deal (and scores $300 bucks). It's there he hears the whispers of and meets an entrancing, silent blonde muse - who's already killed two men fixing a flat tire near her wooded domain. And now that Adam's laid his eyes on her, she's latched onto his soul.

    Back at the studio, where the muse now lives, Adam begins to feverishly sketch and paint images of her; his drug-dealing neighbor sees her as a "loose end." She quickly begins dispatching those who threaten her and come between her and Adam. Even when she's caked in blood, Adam embraces her - and cleans up after the mayhem. And he soon begins to ensnare others to "feed" her.

    In the world of indie film, horror is the most popular of genres among aspiring filmmakers, since the format lends itself to be shot cost-effectively without splashy practical effects (e.g., the works of Eli Roth, such as Hostel), instead relying on light and shadows, and a slow burn of darkness and suspense. Such is this nine film and second feature film overall (the first was 1999's The Beast; Legends of the Muse is the first to receive widespread distribution) by director John Burr.

    The level of quality of this psychological, atmospheric tale - pushed beyond the limits of beauty by cinematographer Damian Horan - mesmerizes in the same way that Nicolas Roeg brought a level of class and style to the Italian Giallo genre with his 1973 masterpiece, Don't Look Now. (If you're familiar with Roeg's classic editing style employed in that that film during its "sexually graphic" love-making scene between Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland, you'll understand my comparison of this film to Roeg's work.)

    And it's not just Burr's eye and Horan's lens: all of the film disciplines are at their finest the in frames of Legends of the Muse - but we must single out the performance of Elle Evans (the wife of Matthew Bellamy of, ironically, the band Muse; you may have previously seen her in Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse). A true standout in the acting department as The Muse, she captivates without a syllable of dialog, employing only facial expressions and body language.
  • Cool story. Great ensemble cast. Beautifully shot.... I definitely recommend checking it out. It's on Amazon Prime.