This review is part of Nevermore Horror’s continued coverage of the Blood in the Snow Film Festival
What is the first thing that pops into your brain when you hear the words “conspiracy theory?” Aliens and UFOs, obviously; Lizard people did 9/11; shadowy government departments with incredible resources that seem like a fantastic departure from the common drudgery of bureaucracy? Oh, and let’s not forget the rabbit hole that accompanies each theory.
Majic is one such rabbit hole, the kind that easily draws you in and leaves you wandering (and wondering) after the credits roll.
The brains behind the film, Erin Berry – whose line producing credits include music documentary Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey and the Canadian horror anthology TV series Slasher – knows how to run a show; he can weave a tale too.
Majic follows anti-conspiracy YouTuber Pippa Bernwood (Paula Brancati) who values evidence-based truth and fact-finding above all else, as she blogs her punching holes in conspiracy theories, and listening to gig proposals from her sleazy agent, Eastman (Michael Seater). One day she is invited to meet an old man by the name of Richard Anderson (Richard Fitzpatrick) in a nearby park; the seemingly daft fellow tells her a story, then offers her some tantalising proof in the form of a photograph, which sets her off on a trail surrounding the infamous government agency known as Majestic-12, or Majic.
Soon Bernwood discovers that her perception of reality could be flimsy and that the truth isn’t absolute or tied to an irrefutable foundation. This is where the film really turns up its narrative and introduces a “what if?” scenario.
The simplicity of Majic is one of its greatest strengths, and it comes across very unassumingly: minimal resources in the number of actors, locations and props used bely the power of its story-telling ability, going at a comfortable pace as we are slowly drawn into this world. The closest examples that come to mind are mystery drama Death and the Maiden (1994) and psychological thriller Memento (2000); the former utilised three actors, one location and engrossing, well-written dialogue to set the scene and tell a story that was as entertaining as it was gripping; the latter knew how to tie loose narratives into a grand sequence of events.
Subtext is crucial with regards to the aforementioned: a few props and leading dialogue gently guides your imagination to fill in the rest. For instance, Bernwood constantly demands concrete evidence before she entertains anything, but through the course of the movie you see a slow change in her – she starts sounding like the people she debunks and showcasing symptoms of gaslighting, the other characters question her in ways that rouse suspicion – to the point that she goes from a hardened skeptic to a jittery rambler who sees the world around her become an even scarier place.
There are several political points that can be taken away from Majic – such as ‘what is accepted as truth vs post-truth’, excessive government control over public access to information, and what is perceived reality – but a notable motif is how it presents an unforced and capable woman as the lead. Bernwood is a typical hipster in how she dresses and surprises the men around her as they expect her to be one of them; she retorts whenever she’s referred to as a girl and scolds each man for making short-sighted assumptions about her. In a nutshell: she’s an “alien” in “their” space – have fun unpacking that one.
Speaking of characters, each person on-screen fulfils their role swimmingly, but Brancati and Fitzpatrick shine through, with the latter leaving enough of a bread trail for the former to follow. However, some of it does turn cheesy, especially with Seater’s overacting. His character provides filler and some comic relief, but comes across as an interactive prop, a plot coupon.
Majic has a sizeable amount of dialogue and it’s easy to get lost in the details, which can work against it and be distracting. There are plenty of facts and (dis)information that gets thrown around, so much so that it’s easy for your focus to drift elsewhere – you could be drawing your own conclusions and miss an important point whilst the film marches on.
This film might seem daunting considering some of the topics touched upon, but even if you’re not a conspiracy zealot, it’s still easy to follow and enjoy.
The twist in the final act had me saying “oh, come on” with a chortle, but as with most things, presentation is everything, and how it was built up made all the amusing – and not exasperating – difference.
That, is when entertainment value meets getting your money’s worth.
Majic runs a tight ship despite some rust, but it chugs along intently and you’re bound to get to your destination in captivated comfort. It’s recommended viewing, especially if you’re a fan of the X-files, paranormal shows such as Ghost Hunters and series you would typically find on Syfy.
Majic is one of the feature films at the Blood in the Snow film festival and will be showing on Sunday, 24 November, at 4:30 pm.