Eve's Bayou

Eve's Bayou ★★★★★

Hooptober VIII | A Witch’s Calendar of Folk Horror #01 - featuring a Person of Color as director or lead

"Memory is a selection of images: some elusive, others printed indelibly on the brain. Each image is like a thread, each thread woven together to make a tapestry of intricate texture, and the tapestry tells a story, and the story is our past."

Not technically a horror (although perhaps horror-adjacent with the kinds of anxiety and loss of control presented throughout), Eve's Bayou nevertheless exudes low country atmosphere. A flair of drama, a twisting of voodoo, a heavy dash of bayou sensibilities, and we've got ourselves a rich, hearty, folk-infused southern gothic tale. The roots are subtle but still show through, in the various types of magic that are readily accepted, the thick Creole accent of one generation under the same roof of later generations presenting barely a tinge, the reliance on family to keep the world right and in its proper order, the attempt at adherence to traditions in the face of change.

Beautiful black and white imagery of a scandalous memory transitions into the deep greens and grey-tinged wooden tones of the sultry bayou as we're introduced to the backstory of this patch of wilderness named after a freed slave, with whom our main protagonist in turn shares a name. A score equally at home in a muggy drama or humid swamp tavern sets the tone while harmonizing with a choir of cicadas, camera panning through majestic cypress trees laden with Spanish moss before coming to rest on a grand home spilling out lively zydeco. The first three minutes of this film are thick with mood, absolutely glutted with character and demanding the viewer's attention for the family saga about to unfold.

I've never seen less than 100% given to a role by either Lynn Whitfield or Debbi Morgan, and this film is no exception. The cast is absolutely stacked, also starring a young Jurnee Smollett, Meagan Good, Lisa Nicole Carson, Diahann Carroll, and a handful of others in short appearances. There are some men too, but I won't be listing them because this film isn't about them. It may seem to revolve around them on the surface. But they're brief occurrences, inevitable plot devices, sources of torment or heartache or strife. This film is about the women, both those in the Batiste family and those revolving around them, sources of joy and complexity and healing and truth and vengeance. This also may be the only, or at least one in a very small handful, film that's comprised entirely of People of Color that I've seen. Set in rural southern Louisiana in the 1960s featuring this cast, it manages to not be about race and be entirely about race all at the same time, showcasing more than perhaps any other instance I've seen that every family and every community faces the same issues beneath the surface of what's presented to the outside eye, and no matter with which type of lens that eye decides to equip itself.

I can't express how much I love the authenticity of the environments, and how beautiful they are, from the interior of the Batiste family home to the waterside farmer's market. I can walk outside my door and hear the same sounds as any night scene in this film. I couldn't name what makes each one of them beyond the more discernable top layers, but I can say it sounds like home when it's put together right. And these are put together right, with the film being shot entirely in what could be considered my back yard, not half an hour's drive away from where I live. Otis House Museum in Fairview-Riverside State Park serves as the Batiste family home, where we spend much of the film and always return to no matter where we venture throughout the weaving of the tale. I haven't been to the house myself yet, but I've visited the park more than once, for photography and nature illustration day trips. Seeing it all here makes me want to go back again, and finally take a look inside Otis House. I'll never be able to visit there again without thinking of this film, and my experience each journey will be the better for seeing it through newly-tinted eyes.

Terence Blanchard put in amazing work on this score. I love the entire thing, but there's a song I can't find anywhere that I love above all others in the film. There's a scene 21 minutes in where Eve is going upstairs to bring her aunt a flower, and the song is playing. I rewound that scene three times just to listen to it, watching it as a first-time experience the first time through, paying more attention to how the music intersects with the visuals and story the second time through, and the third time with my eyes closed, just paying attention to the effect it had on me. My physical reaction to this song, making my heart clench, evokes such a strong longing for something unnamed, makes breath slightly harder to come by, and imbues my eyes with the desire to well with tears. This entire score goes perfectly along with every scene and is something I would listen to forever.

There's also an excellent commentary on the unreliability of memory and how it shapes our actions and perceptions, well-woven into the story between visions of the future and ghosts of the past. The bones of our lives aren't nearly as clear as those cast from a pouch for reading, but we see the same in both: a collection of what's before us, and what we fill with some undefinable, unknowable part of our minds. Imagination, wishing, belief, real magick - no one can tell the difference beyond what you decide for yourself.

I had to watch this in pieces over three days because my internet connection is just terrible where I'm currently staying and even that didn't manage to break the spell of this film or the hold it now has on me.

Bayou Travel Brochure
Films with Visual Artists
Southern Gothic
Spellbound and Starry-Eyed

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