[Panic Fest] TRIM SEASON Review – Uterine Horror's Neoteric Mother Crone Comes in Blazing
Bold, fresh, and bloody, director Ariel Vida gives audiences Uterine Horror wrapped in a lovely red cannabis bow in Trim Season. Writer David Blair begets the genre’s contemporary mother with a crone reminiscent of the infamous Hungarian serial killer, Countess Elizabeth Báthory. The primarily female-led film stars an exceptional cast, including Bethlehem Million, Alex Essoe, Ally Ioannides, Juliette Kenn De Balinthazy, and trans non-binary actor Bex Taylor-Klaus.
Trim Season follows down-on-her-luck Emma (Million), her best friend Julia (Essoe), and a group of young hopefuls to a remote cannabis farm in need of quick cash. They discover the farm’s ominous matron, Mona (Jane Balder), and her brood of boys. Trapped on the mountain by dark forces, the farm’s new trimmers desperately pursue a means to escape the Mater Suspiriorum-esque grip of Mona and her desire to possess the life force of their wombs.
The film benefits from a narrative that offers several interpretations and themes to audiences. Dusty (Taylor-Klaus) represents bodily autonomy and gender fluidity — suggesting that a uterus doesn’t designate gender. Emma faces chaos as her control over her life unravels. She is wary, skittish, and tense but “blooms” when facing life and death. Her final transformation is exciting and unexpected.
Our protagonist Emma isn't a particularly interesting character despite her arc throughout the film. She's frustratingly meek, conjuring what little confidence and resilience she can from the women around her, namely Julia and Lex (Kenn De Balinthazy). She isn't particularly relatable or likable until the film's third act, and while played brilliantly by Million, who conveys all the nuances of Emma's naïveté perfectly, audiences want a heroine we can believe in.
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While Emma feels like a side character in her own story, it's Ioannides as the convincingly intrusive, obnoxious, carefree, and mean-spirited stoner Harriet that steals the spotlight. She causes trouble for the rest of the group, making the moment she gets her comeuppance that much sweeter. Everyone loves to hate a bad girl, and Harriet, surrounded by a never-ending cloud as she chain-smokes pot, is a rather enjoyable one.
Mona is the quintessential “Crone,” whose vanity and longing for youthful virility fuel her evil nature. Her outdated view of feminity is depicted through her tailored outfits that demand attention and evoke 1960s glamor with strings of pearls. Through its central female characters, the film conveys many female archetypes, including the maiden, the mystic, the sage, the queen, and the huntress. It maintains a level of foreboding and mystique through its Folk Horror motifs and the duality of its themes.
The film boasts horrific scenes bathed in stunning red hues, ample beautifully torn flesh, thick gooey blood streaming from every orifice, and a healthy supply of joints. Luka Bazeli’s disorienting cinematography emulates the euphoric experience of a cannabis-induced high and evokes the tonal transition from a “stoner good time” to a “paranoid couch-lock.” While the characters smoke up, we view them and the forest surrounding them in a hazy and prismatic fishbowl. It’s enough to make audiences queasy but significantly adds to the film’s unease and tension between the trimmers and their host.
At times comedic and at others foreboding, Trim Season, put simply, is abundantly entertaining. The film's methods of exploring the source of “feminine” power, its acute hagsploitation, queer reading, and innovative use of cannabis are a short list of its strengths. The characters are distinct and engaging, and Vida plays on familiar Folk Horror tropes while remaining fresh in her execution.