I previously reviewed Ted Geoghegan’s Mohawk after seeing it on the big screen at The Palace in Syracuse NY. I was very moved by this picture, and raved about it. So I don’t need to repeat myself about how good Mohawk is. Instead let me put the film in the context it deserves.
Mohawk is Geoghegan’s second feature, following the gory and scary haunted house thrill ride We Are Still Here. If both Mohawk and We Are Still Here had come out from a major studio in the 1970s, we’d still talk about them as classics, maybe in the same breath as Straw Dogs or The Amityville Horror. As haunted house stories go, Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House, Tobe Hooper’s Poltergeist, and The Amityville Horror are the only ones that ever scared me, until We Are Still Are Here.
Mohawk is set during the War of 1812 and takes place over a single day following a platoon of American soldiers chasing two Mohawk warriors and a British operative, after one of the warriors has attacked an American camp. Period pieces are often the domain of big studios; they’re Oscar bait, and sometimes star Kevin Costner. Think Dances With Wolves, Open Range, The Last of the Mohicans… Gore and horror don’t play into these films, even though gore and horror were parts of reality. In a very real way, Geoghegan steals fire from the gods and steps outside of indie horror to create a film experience we don’t often get.
At the core of its heart, Mohawk is a revenge thriller. Its also my favorite type of film: people going where they shouldn’t go, pursuing something they shouldn’t pursue. This was the kind of film that made me a monster/horror kid when I was five and obsessively watched Jaws 1 and 2 and Alien. Later I fell in love with Apocalypse Now and Aguirre: The Wrath of God.
It’s those last two films, from Francis Ford Coppola and Werner Herzog, respectively, that create the film subgenre within which Mohawk most comfortably fits. They are films that kept coming to mind while I viewed the film both in the theater and at home on Blu-ray. Mohawk is a horror film, it is a period piece, it is a character drama, and it is an action film. Like Apocalypse and Aguirre, it doesn’t pull from multiple genres in tonal shifts, but maintains a point of view and accessorizes beautifully with other elements.
There’s a scene in Mohawk while Kaniehtiio Horn’s character is preparing to go into her final confrontation with the soldiers who have stripped her of everything she loves. Watching this, I was as riveted as when Robert DeNiro, as Travis Bickle, prepares for his “mission” in Taxi Driver. (I could totally imagine Klaus Kinski in Luke Harper’s role in Mohawk, by the way.) I hope and believe that Mohawk and We Are Still Here will achieve the status of these films in 20 years time, so long as film doesn’t become as devalued as music as an art form, because the only thing keeping Ted Geoghegan from being a William Friedkin is budget and era.
The Blu-ray of Mohawk is gorgeous. The film was a co-production of Dark Sky Films and Snowfort Pictures. Both have released some of the best genre films in decades, such as House of the Devil, Starry Eyes, Stake Land, and Cheap Thrills. Grady Hendrix, who wrote the books Horrorstor and Paperbacks From Hell, penned the screenplay. The cast is strong too, featuring Kaniehtiio Horn (Hemlock Grove), Justin Rain (Fear the Walking Dead), Eamon Farren (Twin Peaks: The Return), Ezra Buzzington (Justified), Ian Colletti (Preacher), and Jonathan Huber a.k.a. Luke Harper (WWE).
Buy this movie; that’s my recommendation.