Following a very limited theatrical release earlier this year, The Headmistress made its way to VOD platforms in March. Very little buzz accompanied this little indie supernatural horror movie and it has recently landed on Tubi. This story of a debt-ridden teacher looking to sell off an abandoned lakeside inn that she inherited doesn’t look like it breaks any new ground. And no official reviews have surfaced yet on Rotten Tomatoes. Now that it’s a free watch on Tubi, however, is it worth 90 minutes or so of your time?
Mara, a young teacher buried in debt, may finally have caught a break. She’s inherited an old, abandoned lakeside inn that could net her a payout that could turn her life around. But to get that money, she marches out several potential investors to tour the old building and grounds. Yet no sooner than they arrive and strange things begin to haunt Mara and the rest of the group. Years before it was an inn, Mara’s inherited property was a boarding school run by a cruel pastor and his sister – The Headmistress. Now old legends come to life and threaten the lives of everyone on the grounds of the old building.
The Headmistress Follows Familiar Beats, Yet Manages Some Scares Along the Way
From its opening scene, The Headmistress clearly announces that its a modestly budgeted independent horror movie. Co-directors Christopher A. Micklos and Jay Sapiro are relative newcomers working with limited resources and what’s largely a limited – albeit fairly big – single setting for most of the movie. What’s immediately impressive about their sophomore effort is their ability to compensate for a shortcoming of resources. That is, The Headmistress is obviously an independent horror movie, but it never looks cheap. This isn’t to say that is lush production that captures the Gothic potential of its setting. It never rises to that level of film-making – in fact, most of the movie is workmanlike.
What’s immediately impressive about their sophomore effort is their ability to compensate for a shortcoming of resources. That is, The Headmistress is obviously an independent horror movie, but it never looks cheap.
In spite of its workmanlike quality, The Headmistress proves to a rather effective little thriller. Yes, Micklos and Sapiro rely on tried and true setups for their scares. For instance, loud noises almost always accompany their scares. Yes, it’s a lazy way to deliver your jolts. Yet at the same time, The Headmistress almost always successfully delivers on those scares. Nothing here is going to resonate for a long time – no one will accuse this indie horror of being an innovative genre entry. Even the set-ups to the scares largely conform to what we’ve already seen in other movies. But there are a few scenes where the co-directors craft some innovative moments that hint at what they could accomplish with more resources at their disposal.
The Headmistress Doesn’t Re-Invent the Wheel With Its Story
Like much of the filmmaking on display, Christopher A. Micklos’ screenplay doesn’t offer much fresh or contrary to anything we’ve seen in the past. In fact, The Headmistress squarely positions itself as a bit of derivative supernatural horror story. Financial hardship pushing a protagonist toward an obviously ominous destination feels pretty rote at this point for the subgenre. As for backstory to the haunting, while it’s an appropriately tragic set of events, it doesn’t change it feels like recycled bits from past movies. Of course, what Micklos commits to his screenplay still works making it something of an ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ issue. And a final reveal in the third act – while not entirely surprising – adds a bit of gravity to the climax.
…what Micklos commits to his screenplay still works making it something of an ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ issue.
If the actors are unfamiliar, their characters are largely ripped from most similarly-themed horror movies. Even novice horror fans shouldn’t have too much trouble figuring out who dies first (or second). In particular, Thomas McCarthy’s ‘uber jerk’ investor plays exactly as one might expect. It’s a character trope recycled from countless horror movies. But Tom Dacey Carr (Pete) and Hunter O’Harrow’s (Dex) couple actually feel like real people and thankfully avoid embracing stereotypes. As the central protagonist, ‘Mara’, Katherine Bellantone is fine though some of the role’s demands outstretch her range.
The Headmistress Is Familiar, But Surprisingly Effective
No, there’s nothing about The Headmistress that you haven’t seen in just about any other supernatural horror movie. From its story to the scare setups, Micklos and Sapiro aren’t re-inventing or adding anything new to the genre. Nevertheless, The Headmistress proves to be a surprisingly effective thriller with more than a handful of good scares. In spite of its obviously modest budget, the co-directors even pull off some inventive moments that show a lot of promise. None of the performances are going to turn heads, but everyone is more than game. At roughly 90 minutes, this is a supernatural thriller well worth a look on Tubi.