Grief will always be a potent subject for horror films. It’s something we’ve all experienced or will experience at some point. Though we all deal with it differently, it forces us to confront fears about mortality and death. The Awakening of Lilith is about one woman’s descent into personal anguish and her struggles to cope with the loss of a loved one. For the lead, grief is crippling.
Brittany Renée stars as Lilith, and she’s just fine in the main role. She exudes the pain of her character well. Not long into writer/director Steven Adam Renkovish’s film, we learn that Lilith is reeling from the loss of her fiancé, Noah (Justin Livingston). Initially, we’re only given breadcrumbs about what happened to him. Most of the narrative is fractured, non-linear, and non-logical, reflecting Lilith’s tormented mind and aching heart. Despite this, there’s still enough in the flashbacks to piece together what happened to Noah, especially by the second half. It all builds to a tragic conclusion.
The film announces itself with a quote from the Austrian poet Rilke, so immediately, there’s a sense that this is going to be an arthouse film, and indeed it is. Still, it’s not so experimental as to alienate the average horror movie fan. There’s enough drama and enough clear narrative in the flashbacks to make sense of the whole film. The more experimental parts also make sense as Lilith spirals down a dark path. However, much of the film contains her long-winded monologues, and while they’re poetic, they often grow tedious, while at their worst, they’re mind-numbing.
More interesting is Lilith’s isolation from her community. In what may or may not be a nightmare, her zombie-like neighbors creep near her front door as if to devour her. Local women in her bible study group are catty and mean. One of them says, “Let’s study Lilith,” most likely meaning the protagonist, not the first wife of Adam/queen of hell. One of them mocks her depression and can’t fathom why she struggles to get over the loss of her fiancé. This cruelty is the scariest part of the film, specifically the way that a small community isolates a woman who desperately needs a support system.
There are indications that Lilith channels something supernatural. Several shots feature her walking alone in the woods, dressed in black. She recites incantations, though it’s never quite clear to whom. In fact, this film would have been more interesting if it leaned into the supernatural a little more.
While The Awakening of Lilith balances arthouse horror with drama quite well, it doesn’t really do anything new in its exploration of grief. The dimly lit interior shots and uneven lightening grow tiresome, as do the protagonist’s monologues. The reveal about what happened to Noah is gut-wrenching. It’s just too bad that the protagonist’s personal journey into hell is so dull. There are plenty of horror films that deal with personal anguish in a much better and more interesting fashion than this feature.
5.5 Out of 10