Another gem from the Horror Noire list and this one is delicious, I tell you. Written and directed by the wonderful Kasi Lemmons – best known in my heart as Helen’s BFF in the best film ever made – it follows the trials and tribulations of the Batiste family as they deal with the infidelities of their patriarch, Louis.
Set in the Louisiana bayou after which our young protagonist Eve is named, the film focuses firmly on the females of the family and their collective pain and suffering in the wake of Louis’ selfish behaviour. All this against the backdrop of a culture rich with supernatural magick.
It’s not exactly a light-hearted romp and it’ll leave you with all the feelings (most of all rage for a man who knows he’s hurting his family and simply doesn’t give a fuck) – but we’re here for the dark and moody, right? Let’s go.
Eve’s Bayou (1997)
What did little Eve see–and how will it haunt her? Husband, father and womanizer Louis Batiste is the head of an affluent family, but it’s the women who rule this gothic world of secrets, lies and mystic forces.
Directed by: Kasi Lemmons
Starring: Samuel L. Jackson • Jurnee Smollett • Meagan Good
Ten-year-old Eve (Smollett) accidentally catches her father banging family friend, Matty Mereaux (Lisa Nicole Carson) during a family party and life is never the same again. While her sister, Daddy’s girl Cisely (Good) tries to persuade her that she’s misinterpreted what she’s seen, the tension surrounding Louis Batiste’s (Jackson) extra-curricular activities permeates the family and it seems like the worst kept secret in town.
Descended from French aristocracy, Louis – a charismatic and affluent doctor – cashes in royally on his position within the community – and now Eve’s starting to see him for what he really is. That Summer she uncovers more and more evidence of his infidelities, which puts further strain on her relationship with her parents. Meanwhile, Cisely is going through puberty and doing her fair share of lashing out. Mother Roz (Lynn Whitfield) seems aware of Louis’ goings on but has been turning a blind eye until now.
She confides in sister-in-law, Aunt Mozelle (Debbi Morgan), a psychic counselor and widow three times over. Mozelle in turn, tries to reassure Roz that Louis just needs time to see that what he’s searching for is already right in front of him. Funnily enough, Roz isn’t thrilled about the prospect of just twiddling her thumbs while she waits, so the women visit Elzora, a local fortune teller and she tells Roz that an unexpected solution will come to the rescue at some point but for now, to look to her children.
Again, Roz is exasperated by the encouragement to just wait and storms off. When Mozelle speaks to Elzora, Elzora tells her she’s a black widow whose future husbands will all die, just like her previous three. Which is nice.
Eve has also started seeing things, just like auntie, who tells her she has the ‘second sight’. This puts her in the bad books with Elzora too, who calls her a bad girl when she steals a pineapple from the market – and isn’t best pleased she has fresh psychic competition.
Cisely is still acting wildly and freaks out when she get her first period which goes some way but not all, to explaining her increasingly troubling behaviour. Before she’s sent away from the family for a short break, she confides her big secret in Eve and it is a doozy, which leads Eve to taking justice into her own hands.
With the help of Elzora, Eve signs the warrant on her father’s final days – or does she? Could his unfaithful life have simply caught up with him? Likewise, is Cisely’s big reveal the actual truth (and does it matter in the end)? And what does is say about Eve’s feelings for her dad when she instantly regrets her actions?
I’m parking this here as I don’t want to spoil the ending for anyone who’s into it but just know: not everything is as it seems.
“Like others before me, I have the gift of sight. But the truth changes color, depending on the light” ~ Narrator
I think if you go into this expecting balls to the wall horror, you’ll be disappointed. It’s a stunning film, with a truly beautiful setting and first class performances from a terrific cast – and while there are supernatural elements at play, it’s all very subtly approached.
Unsettling is more the word I’d use to describe Eve’s Bayou as it plays with the concept of being haunted by the past, guilt and disappointment for the way life turned out. The women are incredibly powerful creatures who don’t sit around waiting for things to get better, they take matters into their own hands with mixed consequences.
It also says a lot about a wife’s role (back then but in some cases I’m sure today too), in which a woman’s role is to be beautiful, classy and a loving mother, while a lover gets all the filth. This is something Louis actually says to his daughter, in not so many words and it’s such lame justification for his heinous actions.
Mozelle’s continuous defence of her brother’s nature is also a little tiresome but she’s my favourite character and I understand social conditioning all too well.
All in all there’s a lovely sadness to this film, Journee Smollett is an exceptional actress for a ten-year-old (last seen as Black Canary in Birds of Prey) and Elzora the witch is blimming terrifying.
I loved it. Men, huh? Amiright?
What does my Queen think of this one? Would she leave it to the alligators in the surrounding swamp or tell it its fortune for a penny? Find out here.
(FYI Jill, this is next on my list)
Excellent choice, dearest!
Mozelle was such a great character even when she was totally clueless about her brother. And her style was so chic.
There were times this felt like a soap opera with voodoo thrown in, and I’m not at all complaining about that.