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VOD Review: Don’t Say Its Name

November 19, 2021

By John Corrado

★★½ (out of 4)

An Indigenous community in rural Alberta that is in the process of being surveyed for a mining project is the evocative setting for Don’t Say Its Name, a Canadian supernatural horror movie from first time feature director Rueben Martell.

A shadowy mining corporation called WEC has just struck a deal to start drilling in the area. The film opens with Kharis Redwater (Sheena Kaine), an outspoken anti-mining activist, walking home from a band council meeting concerning the mine, when she starts being pursued by a pickup truck and is killed in a suspicious hit-and-run accident.

Shortly after, people connected to the mine start being mutilated and killed by an unseen force, warned only by a black bird flying above and a repugnant scent. This leaves police chief Betty Stonechild (Madison Walsh) scrambling to solve the mystery behind these gruesome deaths, working alongside Stacey Cole (Sera-Lys McArthur), a Parks Canada ranger and combat veteran whom she deputizes, and wise elder Carson Stonefeather (Julian Black Antelope).

While Don’t Say Its Name is operating in a genre space, the themes it explores are very timely and topical, including the internal debates within these communities about protecting the land or accepting the jobs and opportunity provided by energy projects. The film is held back slightly by some cheesy, low budget visual effects, and the screenplay, credited to Martell and Gerald Wexler, is marred by hit and miss dialogue and inconsistent character development.

But Don’t Say Its Name still functions as a decent and fairly entertaining mix of police procedural and supernatural thriller set against a wintery, rural Alberta backdrop. It delivers one or two alright jump scares and has enough intrigue to keep us watching, with a story rooted in both native myths and modern political debates that has a unique cultural perspective to it.

Don’t Say Its Name is now available on a variety of Digital and VOD platforms. It’s being distributed in Canada by Vortex Media.

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