DON’T SAY ITS NAME is a horror movie set in a Native American community. Finally, we get a Native American story made by and with a largely Native American cast and crew. Read our full Don’t Say Its Name movie review here!

DON’T SAY ITS NAME is a horror movie premiering at Fantasia 2021. There are some great scenes during this horror movie, but I am not a fan of the effects chosen in some pivotal scenes. That’s more of a personal preference, though.

The story is set in a Native American community and folklore. Fortunately, and finally, I am very happy to say that we get a Native American story set in their community and starring Native American actors.

Continue reading our Don’t Say Its Name movie review below.

The tragic backdrop

While this isn’t the core plot of Don’t Say Its Name, I couldn’t help but think of the true-crime documentaries I’ve watched. I’m talking about the murders of a grotesque amount of Indigenous women in Canada and the United States.

It was also part of the plot in the 2017 movie Wind River starring Elizabeth Olsen and Jeremy Renner from the Marvel Avengers universe. That particular story took place in Wyoming, but the issues are the same. For me, this backdrop was very obvious due to the struggles they have with getting resources for all cases.

You’ve probably heard of the many unsolved (and largely uninvestigated) murders. If you haven’t then I urge you to read up on it. Check out the Wikipedia page on “Missing and murdered Indigenous women” here >

Don’t Say Its Name also has to do with the murder of a woman and the struggles of getting resources to look into that case. However, this is a horror movie and not a crime thriller, so the main focus is on “that which we shall not name”.

Don't Say Its Name – Review | Horror | Fantasia

Two strong women lead the cast

For me, two women delivered performances that lifted the entire movie. First and foremost, Madison Walsh as Betty, who is the police officer investigating the murder. Actually, she pretty much is the police in this community. With barely any resources, she works with “outside” White police officers as well.

You may recognize Madison Walsh from the TV series The Expanse and Mrs. America or the horror movie The Toll. To me, she makes everything work in Don’t Say Its Name. I am very happy to have discovered her talent in this film and hope to see her in a lot more in the years to come.

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Our review of the surprisingly awesome horror movie The Toll here >

The other actor who worked really well is Sera-Lys McArthur. She portrays the local Ranger, Stacey, who is also a war veteran with her own trauma. Basically, she takes no sh*t from anyone and knows how to handle herself. You may know Sera-Lys McArthur from TV series such as Outlander or Burden of Proof.

Don’t Say Its Name premieres at Fantasia 2021

This is the debut of writer and director Rueben Martell, and while it shows potential, there is also room for improvement. The effects for the monster/ghost creature were very distracting for me so that obviously didn’t help. Also, the pacing wasn’t always to my liking.

However, the basic plot and (especially!) the focus on issues currently threatening the future of Native communities makes for a very complete movie-watching experience. Also, the core cast did make up for a lot of the things that didn’t work.

Gerald Wexler was the co-writer on the screenplay and he has quite a lot of experience with horror productions. From writing on the Are You Afraid of the Dark? series to The Hunger series which was hosted by Terence Stamp in season 1 and David Bowie in season 2.

The fact that this movie premieres at Fantasia 2021 is absolutely perfect since it’s also a Canadian production. And yes, the story is also set in Canada.

Don’t Say Its Name is screening at Fantasia 2021 and, I suspect, will continue to play at film festivals worldwide.

Details

DIRECTOR: Rueben Martell
WRITERS: Rueben Martell, Gerald Wexler
CAST: Julian Black-Antelope, Samuel Marty, Sera-Lys McArthur, Madison Walsh

Plot

The small, snow-covered Indigenous community is about to see an upturn. Mining company WEC has just made an agreement for drilling on this tribal land, and it’s looking like everyone will benefit – except the land itself. Local activist Kharis Redwater is one of those protesting the deal when her voice is silenced in a hit-and-run that remains unsolved. So as WEC begins their assault on the land, the land itself retaliates against WEC and all those who support it. But for local peace officer Mary Stonechild (Madison Walsh) and Park Ranger Stacey Cole (Sera-Lys McArthur), the answer to this mystery lies in the traditions of their people and the vengeance-filled spirits that have haunted the land for generations, about which the people know one rule: don’t say its name.

I write reviews and recaps on Heaven of Horror. And yes, it does happen that I find myself screaming, when watching a good horror movie. I love psychological horror, survival horror and kick-ass women. Also, I have a huge soft spot for a good horror-comedy. Oh yeah, and I absolutely HATE when animals are harmed in movies, so I will immediately think less of any movie, where animals are harmed for entertainment (even if the animals are just really good actors). Fortunately, horror doesn't use this nearly as much as comedy. And people assume horror lovers are the messed up ones. Go figure!
Karina "ScreamQueen" Adelgaard