Directors – Yonah Lewis & Calvin Thomas, Screenplay – Lev Lewis, Yonah Lewis & Calvin Thomas, Producers – Karen Harnisch, Yonah Lewis & Calvin Thomas, Photography – Ian Carleton, Yonah Lewis & Calvin Thomas, Music – Lev Lewis, Visual Effects – Taylor von Muehlen, Production Design – Drew Lint. Production Company – C&Y
Claudia Dey (Lena)
Lena leaves the city and goes to live at a remote cabin in the woods. She is suffering from a medical condition that leaves her in frequent pain. In the silence alone in the cabin, she begins to see and hear things.
This is the second feature film for Canadian duo Yonah Lewis and Calvin Thomas. The two had previously made the film Amy George (2011), which gained some international festival play, and subsequently went on to make the quite interesting The Intestine (2016), directed by this film’s co-writer Lev Lewis. The Oxbow Cure was made with a $15,000 budget raised via a Kickstarter campaign.
The Oxbow Cure has an interesting set-up. It opens on a montage of images as Claudia Dey has a going away party and leaves home. This is over and done within a couple of minutes (and no dialogue) and next she settles into the cabin in the woods. After arriving there, the film abandons other people altogether – there is the aging father she visits (where you are not entirely sure if these are flashbacks or visits away from the cabin) where the only dialogue between the two comes from her voiceover of the letters she writes to him. Indeed, the most dialogue that comes in the film is where she is writing to a friend via an online chat program about the condition she suffers from. Everywhere else we have a minimalist film that almost completely eschews the spoken word. Instead, it is a film where the silence amplifies tiny sounds that you wouldn’t even notice in another film – the wind blowing as Claudia Day walks outside or causing the insides of the cabin to creak and rattle, her puffing of breath as she walks through the snow, the click of her phone as she takes photos of the wilderness.
It is a film that is almost all observational detail of her solitude in the cabin. When she starts believing that she is hearing sounds or seeing things, you keep thinking that this is a worthwhile set-up that seems to be leading towards a potentially good horror film. It would have taken about a one-degree push to allow this to segue into an excellent study in cabin fever or paranoia. Yet The Oxbow Cure is a film where almost nothing happens – all we seem to get is 79 minutes of watching Claudia Dey’s mundane life alone in the cabin. The exception to this is two scenes towards the end.
This is the point where, instead of expanding on its isolation theme, The Oxbow Cure gets weird. In one, Claudia Dey wakes in the middle of the night and wanders out into the forest where she follows a mysterious light that flits through the trees up in the air. The longer, more extended sequence comes right at the end where a creature – maybe something that is dead – and covered head to toe in what look like hideous burns comes to the cabin, staggers inside and falls down in front of her. Both of these sequences could have gone into interesting directions from there but the film comes with a complete lack of explanation about what is going on. I’ve seen the light in the trees referred to as either a spirit light or a UFO but nobody appears to have a clear idea. Similarly, nobody seems to have any clues about what the dead and/or burned creature/person that comes to the door is meant to be either. The baffling thing about the film is that that is it – it just leaves us the morning after Claudia Dey wakes up from the creature in the cabin and comes to an end, offering no explanations. I am still mystified what Lewis and Thomas thought they were making a film about. We never even get to know what the title The Oxbow Cure is meant to refer to – it is only after visiting the film’s website that one gets a clue to this, where it seems to refer to Oxbow Lake, the location not far from Toronto where the film was shot.