review by Bobby Blakey
The horror genre is one that has tackled numerous real life issues from sexuality to race all wrapped in a nice gory terrifying bow. When handled well it is not only powerful, but also a depth that makes it just a better film. The latest, Master from director Mariama Diallo looks to blend the race and haunting world together and features a good cast including Regina Hall, Zoe Renee, Tailia Ryder, Talia Balsam and Amber Gray. Could this flick bring the important message and terror together or will it fail to make the grade?
Master follows Professor Gail Bishop who has recently been promoted to “Master” of a residence hall, the first time at storied Anacaster Colleege that a black woman has held the post. Determined to breathe new life into a centuries-old tradition, Gail soon finds herself wrapped up in the trials and tribulations of Jasmine Moore, an energetic and optimistic black freshman. Jasmine’s time hits a snag early when she;s assigned a dorm room that is rumored to be haunted. Things get worse when Jasmine clashes in the classroom with Liv Beckman, a professor in the middle of her ownb racially charged tenure review. As Gail tries to maintain order and fulfill the duties of Master, the cracks begin to show in Ancaster’s once-immaculate façade. After a career spent fighting to make it into Ancaster’s inner circle, Gail is confronted with the horrifying prospect of what lies beneath, her question ultimately becoming not whether the school is haunted, but by whom.
I didn’t know anything about this film going in, but have always dug Regina Hall so was ready to dive in. The story is actually really intriguing and well handled. I hate calling this film a horror film because that side of the film is kind of secondary and almost forgotten about when it all comes together which is my issue with what is a pretty damn good movie. There is a deep take on racial issues and identity here that is handled really well to the point where it is infuriating on one level and sad on the other. This is the horror of the film more so than the actual haunting elements.
As it moves along it looks to build the world around these characters and all the usual tropes in a haunting, cursed horror sub-genre, but something even more sinister is here. This element helps to elevate this film to something more than it might have been otherwise. They could have ditched the whole horror element in my opinion and still told the strong story it has underneath it all. There is no real resolution to the horror stuff, but instead some implications to the truth if you see them. This made it feel kind of pointless on that front, but if you catch the subtle nuances it infuses then makes it more compelling.
I know I make it sound like it wasn’t a good movie but that is the furthest from the truth. If you understand that you are going in for something deeper dealing with these sad issues that are still all to relevant then it is a great film. If you are going in for a straight up horror flick then you might let down a little. Decide for yourself and check out Master streaming now on Prime Video.