Jeremy’s review of “Master” (2022)

I went into “Master” with high hopes. I had seen some good press on it, great reviews, and it just seemed liked it was going to be the horror movie of the year.

Boy, was I wrong.

“Master” (we’ll get back to that thinly veiled bit of foreshadowing in a minute) tells the story of an elite college in the New England area that is pushing to become more diverse. The story mainly focuses on the stories of three Black women, one a student, one the new headmaster, and one professor who is trying for tenure. There’s a dark history on the school grounds, a “witch” was hanged in the 17th century and, rumor has it, the spirit of the witch haunts the grounds. Her spirit is blamed for the death of a student in the mid 1960’s. The student was the first African American student admitted to the university. She was found hanged in her room, thus adding to the lore of the witch and the hauntings on the campus.

Our modern day student Jasmine, played by Zoe Renee, arrives as a freshman to learn that she has the “haunted suicide” room. Obviously, she believes it to be a freshman prank, until strange things start occurring to her. Nightmares, strange trances, flickering lights, etc… (basic horror 101 stuff). These progress throughout the film, causing her to feel isolated, even outcast from her fellow (white) students. These happenings, isolation, and the seemingly racist feelings of her classmates cause a mental breakdown in Jasmine as the story goes on. There is more to the story, but I don’t want to spoil everything for you.

The new headmaster (or headmistress? it should be, but everyone calls her Master), Gail Bishop, played by Regina Hall, moves into her new home on the campus grounds. Its an old house, with servant’s quarters in the attic. There’s bells in the quarters (if you’re familiar with “Downton Abbey” or “Upstairs, Downstairs” you know the kind of bells) that ring by themselves. Once the bells ring, something spooky this way comes. Boxes fall, things are moved, noises heard, and visions of ghosts all come to occurring Master Bishop’s new house.

Lastly, we have the professor of English literature (or possibly cultural studies, they never really say) Liv Beckman, played by Amber Gray. She’s a champion for the university’s new diversity platform. Heading the movement as a strong Black woman who is well cultured, traveled, and has a few academic articles to her name. This has all gotten her noticed by the tenure committee at the school, and she’s trying hard to be accepted by them. Having the new headmaster as a good friend doesn’t hurt either.

My main complaint with “Master” is that it can’t decide if it wants to be a horror movie or a film on racial injustices that have yet to change in The United States in the past 400 years. The university itself is extremely White, having only eight African American students, There’s a way to look at it as being in the horror genre based on that alone.

Another way to look at the film is in the classic horror sense. It features witches, ghosts, various other horror troupes, yet it doesn’t have the one thing needed in a good horror film. Any scary moments. At all. Like none. There were numerous scenes that could have been scary, but the director just doesn’t take it to that “jump out of your seat” or “this is going to stick in my brain for the rest of my life” levels that it needs.

I’m sure critically the film will do well, but, in my opinion, “Master” is anything but masterful in the way it tells it’s tale. Good effort, but I’d pass on watching this one.

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