For a long time, stories were less about women and more for women. Well, really, they were for everyone; stories written by men, with characters that only vaguely related to women in a “human experience” kind of way. Either that or they were blatant stereotypes. Take your pick.
But directors like Simone Kisiel are changing that. They’re creating stories about women, for women, by women. Stories like that of her most recent horror short, Good Intentions. It’s a story about the degradation of a woman’s psyche, most specifically a mother: the kind of woman we always like to forget. This descent into madness is told in a very familiar way, however. By the end of the short, a lot of viewers should be able to recognise the inspiration for this story: Edgar Allan Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart.
While other horror pieces about women take themselves very seriously (The Babadook comes to mind), Good Intentions brings a welcomed comedic release. An example of this is the handling of one of my favorite horror tropes: the struggling wife and completely oblivious husband. It can be seen in almost all ghost stories, from Poltergeist to Insidious. While gaslighting is usually used as a point of tension, here it is played for laughs. It was something that I hadn’t really seen before and was refreshing.
The opening of Good Intentions is particularly enjoyable to watch. It’s a frenzied sequence of never-ending tasks that perfectly sums up the life of the over-worked career mother. It seems as though we’ve finally given up on being critical of women who work outside of the home. Instead, we still expect them to do everything for their families. Working mothers often have two full-time jobs which, as shown brilliantly here, can drive one a bit mad.
I really enjoyed the original elements of Good Intentions. But, to be honest, I wasn’t really a fan of the connection to Poe’s story. As with many horror fans, I’ve been obsessed with the macabre for as long as I can remember. The Tell-Tale Heart was, of course, the first piece of Poe’s work that I read. It’s a piece of work that I hold in very high regard. And, as excited as I was to see a re-imagining of it for women, I was a little disappointed.
The film’s connections to Poe’s short feel forced in many ways. The beginning of the film lead me in an entirely different direction from where we ended up. I found myself begging the question of just why the main character would do what she does. Her motivation seems unwarranted without a lot of consideration on the viewer’s part.
As I walked out of the theater, with the story fresh on my mind, I found myself having to say, “I guess she went insane, so maybe that’s why.” But I, as the viewer, shouldn’t have to question the motivations of the main character. The end scene is dramatic and tension-filled, but I kept having to ask myself if it fit the rest of the film, or if it was just cut and pasted from The Tell-Tale Heart.
The mother in the first half of this short deserves a gut-wrenching end to her story. She felt so real and reminded me of my own mother, or other mothers that I’ve known. The first half of Kisiel’s film was so remarkable but the final few minutes just felt a bit flat.
All that being said, I think the short overall is a great piece. While some of the elements were a little raw, Good Intentions still left me ravenous for more stories about women from directors like Kisiel. Women need more entertaining, inspiring, relatable works like this one. Hopefully, Kisiel and others will continue delivering them to us.
by Zoey Hickman
Zoey Hickman is a self-proclaimed starving artist with a passion for storytelling. She’s obsessed with horror and politics, because honestly, what’s the difference? Her favorite movies are Halloween, Jurassic Park, Arrival and Scream.