I think we all have an apprehension about approaching any project with only one performer, whether on stage or on screen. It can conjure images of pretentious art house films or performance pieces that go nowhere, filled with anger, intensity and monologuing as though the performer were a supervillain unveiling their plans. And it is with that sense of trepidation that I encountered Faye, a one-woman horror film put together on a micro budget with a skeleton crew.
Rarely have I been so delighted to be wrong.
The film is the story of personal-growth author Faye Ryan as she retreats to a beautiful cabin on the Louisiana bayou in order to focus on her new book. Still dealing with the fallout from an accident that has taken the life of her husband, focus is something that Faye has found hard to find. And while she may still engage with her husband as a coping strategy, another presence appears to be stalking Faye – a spectre that refuses to let her escape the past and is determined to make her confront her guilt and rage over the life that she has lost.
Faye is a film that is interested in delving into the themes of loss and grief, but does so in a way that is engaging, funny, creepy and, ultimately, very moving.
As a one woman show, the film has to continually find ways to have Faye verbalise what is going on around her. And as well as one-sided phone calls and bravado-fuelled defiance against whatever entity may be haunting her, Faye has an interesting narrative weapon that really opens up the piece.
The story is told in chapters, each interspersed with separate scenes of Faye sitting on stage and addressing the audience directly. These moments help to bring us deeper into Faye’s thinking and gradually shed a little more light on the events unfolding, as well as getting us out of the cabin where the bulk of the film takes place.
Sarah Zanotti plays the titular Faye with a refreshing gusto and an innate likeability. As the audience is going to be spending the duration of the film in only her presence, it is a relief to discover that Sarah’s range was so deep and so impressive. Funny, charming and moving in her stage pieces to camera, Sarah keeps the film zipping along and helps you to invest in her plight.
The film has some creepy set pieces and one or two well timed jump-scares, but the themes of guilt, isolation and grief are what hooked me. And while the film does lurch into some broad genre clichés (isolated cabin, spectral sightings just out of focus and even a Ouija board) it does so with a lot of affection for them. Faye is pop culture savvy enough to call out these clichés and raised a smile from this reviewer with its Captain Howdy shout-out.
Coming in at around ninety minutes, the film does a remarkable job of bonding us to Faye before peeling back the circumstances that have led her to where we find her. To do so in such a punchy and tight runtime is to director Kd Amond’s credit.
Filmed on an iPhone, the film looks terrific. There was a recent Twitter debate involving some Hollywood heavy-hitters who were pushing back against the notion of needing a large budget to make a debut feature, and Faye appears to back that up. A good story and a talented actress can go a long way to covering any technical shortcomings, and the power of modern tech means that you can deliver a slick and polished film with hard work and the basics.
Faye purports to be the first American narrative feature film to exclusively star one actress on screen, something that the filmmakers proudly advertise in their marketing. An impressive fact to accompany an impressive film, I urge you to check Faye out when it hits the festival circuit later this year.
By Hugh McStay
Want to join one of the fastest-growing horror communities in the UK for FREE? Now you can. Click here to become a member of The London Horror Society.
Also, if you’re looking for some free entertainment in these testing times, then check out our list of free-to-watch horror films on our YouTube channel, London Horror Society TV