Mohawk review Kaniehtiio Horn Eamon Farren Justin RainYear: 2018
Director(s): Ted Geoghegan
Writer(s): Ted Geoghegan, Grady Hendrix
Region of Origin: USA

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Rating: n/a
Digital, Color, 95 mins

Synopsis: The story of an 18th century Estonian village and the black magic that consumed it. (Source)

More than ever, we live in a time when it’s vital to remember our past in order to move forward. Facing what’s come before isn’t always easy to do, and with Mohawk, it’s absolutely horrifying. Setting things ablaze through a stark survival thriller, director Ted Geoghegan’s takes us back to America’s bloody beginnings, forcing us to confront wrongs that have reverberated into today. With its minimal structure and oppressive tension, Geoghegan’s latest is a ruthless arrow to the gut, replete with sobering brutality and undeniable catharsis for its Native American anti-heroes.

In the wake of the Revolution, America is scarred. As the country fights to maintain its independence, a war with the British rages on. In the middle of it all, Native American tribes are forced to take up sides. The Mohawk tribe is one of the last neutral communities, and amongst them, Oak (Kaniehtiio Horn), Calvin (Justin Rain) and their Red Coat companion, Joshua (Eamon Farren), keep to themselves. With the war approaching the borders of their land, however, Calvin sets into motion a series of events which trigger a war. Pursued by a faction of savage American soldiers, Oak, Calvin and Joshua are thrust into a nightmarish fight for their lives.

Things kick off right away and never look back, with the story essentially rendering a single, protracted chase sequence without respite. Amidst all the action, not a single punch is pulled, making us feel the anger, transgression and tragedy of each desperate character. Needless to say, this isn’t a feel good experience or something we watch for fun, even if the film does tread a tricky line between exploitation and historical reckoning. Above all, this is a timely trip through America’s heart of darkness, making us squirm with its confrontational violence while giving its Native American characters a voice. It all culminates in a third act that ventures into psychedelic territory, blending supernatural horror with a vengeance plot that’s as savage and surreal as it is emotional.

Mohawk review Justin RainTo the film’s credit, both hunter and hunted are equally fleshed out, with the lines between both often blurred. Fittingly, the small ensemble reflects this. Justin Rain’s Calvin immediately makes an impact, turning in a brash, young warrior looking to leave a mark while protecting what he loves most. Eamon Farren’s Red Coat Joshua adds a nice counterpart to Calvin, giving us someone who’s doing their best while being torn between two worlds. The real star here, however, is Kanehtiio Horn as Oak. Kanehtiio earns a genuine transformation throughout, driven, and a true survivor with a commanding presence. Going up against these three, Ezra Buzzington’s Hezekiah is more than a stereotypical villain. Though he can sneer like the best of them, there’s a tragic conviction behind his evil actions. He truly believes he’s doing the right thing despite the fact that hate and anger have clouded everything he does.

If there’s a single trait of the film that makes it so gripping, it’s that there’s no escape. We are trapped within the film as its characters enact a deadly game of cat and mouse, exposing decades of racism, prejudice and senseless violence in a way that really resonates. Sure, the film feels a bit too long and the direction is loose, but Geoghegan’s film feels organic and cutting where it needs to be. In the best way, this may be the birth of a new midnight movie, albeit one that goes beyond its immediate, queasy thrills to dissect the ways in which we’d rather destroy each other rather than relate. Dark stuff, told in a way that grabs us right by the throat.