Director: Mariama Diallo
Writer: Mariama Diallo
Starring: Regina Hall, Zoe Renee, Amber Gray, Ella Hunt, Talia Ryder, Talia Balsam, Bruce Altman
Master is a look at racism and diversity through a more traditional horror story. It’s a mix of social issues and a haunted house story, that sadly doesn’t really work as either. It ends up being very uneven and never really lands the point it’s trying to make.
Jasmine (Zoe Renee) is the new student at Ancaster, a prestigious university that presidents and senators studied at. Jasmine’s dorm room is the same room that someone killed themselves in decades before, and the idea that its haunted has never really left the university. The new Master of Studies, Gail (Regina Hall) is also struggling to settle into her new role at the university and feels that’s somethings not right in her own home.
Tonally this film is all over the place. If you go into this not knowing what it’s about, you’d be tricked into believing it’s a straightforward drama about racism, and then creepy things start to happen. It never properly settles into being a horror, so it doesn’t ever get to a point where it’s actually scary. There are sequences that start to head that way, but it doesn’t go far enough to really chill you. Then when the final twenty minutes come around it becomes so messy and borderline silly that it doesn’t work as a horror or a drama. There’s some good moments and twists later in the film that work, but it doesn’t leave a lasting impression.
As good as Zoe Renee is in the film, her character never feels real. The film spends a lot of time focusing on the racism going on in the university and Jasmine struggling to get the grade that she deserves, but there’s not enough time spent with Jasmine just building up her character, so when it does get scary you just don’t really care. Gail, on the other hand, feels a lot more fleshed out and you get more invested in her side of the story.
Master is mainly about subtle racism that’s ingrained into the Ancaster. On that level the film works, it’s just not scary enough for a horror film. The characters are flimsy, and it all falls apart as the ending comes around. It’s entertaining while it’s on, but not as hard hitting as it could have been.
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