‘Mohawk’ is Intense and Essential Cinema

Mohawk is the story of a woman from the Mohawk nation, named Oak, taking on a platoon of American soldiers after they murder everyone she holds dear during the War of 1812. Shot on location in Syracuse, New York with actual members of the Mohawk tribe, the film is a bloody, deep dive into one of the many corners of American history we tend to gloss over in school.

Mohawk is the follow-up to director Ted Geoghegan’s 2015 film We Are Still Here, from a script he co-wrote with Grady Hendrix (the writer of Horrorstor, My Best Friend’s Exorcism, and Paperbacks From Hell). I was fortunate enough to catch an early screening in Syracuse this past Friday at the Palace Theater, where Geoghegan was in attendance to introduce the movie and do a Q&A at the end.

He told us at the beginning that We Are Still Here is a movie about the sins of the fathers and that Mohawk is about those fathers. The story opens two years into the War of 1812 with Eamon Farren’s character, Joshua, a British agent, meeting with Mohawk elder, Wentahawi (Sheri Foster). He tries to convince her that the Mohawk people, who had remained neutral up to that point, needed to side with the British to defeat the Americans once and for all so they could reclaim their land. That very night, a young warrior named Calvin (Justin Rain), who had befriended and trusted Joshua, attacked an American settlement. Soon, he, Joshua, and Oak (Kaniehtiio Horn) are on the run from a vengeful platoon of American soldiers.

Geoghegan describes Mohawk as a home invasion movie where we are the invaders and North America is the home. With that in mind, I’d compare it to Werner Herzog’s Aguirre, The Wrath of God, Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now, or even Joseph Conrad’s The Heart of Darkness. It’s about men going where they shouldn’t go, pursuing something they shouldn’t pursue. It’s as heart wrenching, scary, and engrossing as those films and better still, it’s currently relevant subject matter. It seriously made my heart swell as the closing credits rolled.

As we saw with We Are Still Here, Geoghegan understands how to scare an audience. I’m a jaded old horror fan and little affects me these days, but that film made me jump multiple times and kept me riveted. Mohawk‘s approach to horror is far more subtle until it isn’t. I wouldn’t exactly call it a slow burn, as there’s a lot of action, but the tension built between the action sets can at times be intense. Every member of the cast is acting their asses off and you can’t take your eyes off either Kaniehttio Horn or Ezra Buzzington, who makes Captain Holta complex and terrifying villain. By the time we get to the third act, the kinetic camera movement is creating a surreal nightmare of visuals and yet keeps us emotionally grounded enough to feel every ounce of pain and terror. And there’s one gore effect that made the whole theater gasp.

The film will come to select theaters, digital, and VOD on March 2 with a DVD/Blu-ray release following sometime in April. If you get a chance to see it in the theater, I highly recommend you do, as there’s something so special about seeing a movie like this on the big screen, Still, I think it will play extremely well on your TV, if We Are Still Here is any indication. I’m glad I got to speak to Geoghegan afterwards, as its such a rare opportunity to actually thank a filmmaker personally for making a movie that touches your heart. I’m up for anything this guy makes and right now Mohawk is the movie to beat this year.

Full cast: Kaniehtiio Horn (On The Road, Immortals), Ezra Buzzington (The Hills Have Eyes, Fight Club), Eamon Farren (Twin Peaks; The Return), Justin Rain (Fear The Walking Dead), Jon Huber (WWE’s Luke Harper), Robert Longstreet (I Don’t Feel At Home In This World Anymore), Noah Segan (Looper, Star Wars: The Last Jedi), Ian Colletti (Preacher), Sheri Foster (U Turn), Jack Gwaltney (Casualties of War), Guy Gane (We Are Still Here), and Wayne W Johnson (Night of Something Strange)

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