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[Fantasia] ‘Sanzaru’ review: Great atmosphere and horror overcome erratic story

Building real terror.

Ghost stories are usually filled with a heavy sense of paranoia. There is the initial reluctance of the person being haunted to believe what is happening. Then they have to deal with the other people not trusting them. Making its international premiere at the Fantasia Film Festival, Sanzaru (the famous three wise monkeys that see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil) is about a hospice nurse named Evelyn. She has been hired to take care of an elderly woman with dementia named Dena. When strange things begin to happen, Evelyn begins to question whether it is her or something surely evil.

Writer and director Xia Magnus does an excellent job of building the atmosphere. Sanzaru is a slow burn horror that gives the audience time to get accustomed to the setting. Sound is also incredibly important in the movie. The film has a gothic feel to it that is aided by a the great score. The scares here are more auditory than visual.

The best horror stories are the ones that people can relate to. Dementia is a real life problem that most will have encountered. This adds another layer of fear to Sanzaru. It is an anxiety most people watching will understand. Aina Dumalo is fantastic in the role of Evelyn. She genuinely seems terrified as to what is happening to her.

[Fantasia] 'Sanzaru' review: Great atmosphere and horror overcome erratic story

Sanzaru’s pacing can be a little erratic. For the most part, things move at a patient pace. This leads to a great amount of detail being given to many moments. This works especially great when delving into the paranoia Evelyn is living with. However, when the movie decides to speed things ups, it can leave the audience feeling unsatisfied. This is particularly noticeable during Sanzura’s final act. 

Sanzaru is another slow burn horror movie that ratchets up the paranoia. The great tone and strong performances will keep audiences engaged. Things begin to unravel at the end, but it is still a worthwhile watch.


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