Welcome to The Prime Sublime, a weekly column dedicated to the underseen and underloved films buried beneath page after page of far more popular fare on Amazon’s Prime Video collection. We’re not just cherry-picking obscure titles, though, as these are movies that we find beautiful in their own, often unique ways. You might even say we think they’re sublime… and this week our pick is the chilling Lord of Tears.
“Sublime /səˈblīm/: of such excellence, grandeur, or beauty as to inspire great admiration or awe”
Scotland isn’t exactly known for its film industry. That’s because there isn’t one. While the country does produce movies and talented filmmakers, it isn’t a hotspot by any means. Hex Studios has been out to change that in recent years, however, and they’re making some waves. The company recently converted an old church into a movie studio, made viral prank videos, and captured the attention of Roger Corman and Guillermo del Toro. More importantly, though, they make great movies.
Lord of Tears is the movie that introduced Hex’s unique brand of horror to the scene. The studio’s taste is a mix of Gothic melodrama, folk horror, cosmic terror, and world mythology. Their style is simultaneously classic and modern, and that’s because their vision is imaginative and sincere. It’s only a matter of time before they unleash a hit that wows the world. But, for now, let’s talk about Lord of Tears and why it’s worth your time.
What’s it about?
Directed by Lawrie Brewster from a script by Sarah Daly, the story follows James (Euan Douglas), a teacher who is haunted by his past and plagued by nightmares. After he inherits his parents’ isolated estate in the Highlands, he visits the mansion looking for answers and closure. It is there that he encounters a strange entity with an Owl’s head, who proceeds to torment James. How is the Owl Man (David Schofield) linked to James’ past, and what does the creature want with him?
The experience isn’t entirely awful for James, though. He becomes acquainted with Eve (Alexandra Hulme), and over time, they grow close. At the same time, there’s something slightly odd about Eve, just like everything else in the haunted Highland setting.
What makes it sublime?
The best monster movies have memorable creatures. That goes without saying. Brewster and Daly understand this, and with Owl Man, they created one hell of a mesmerizing foe. The Owl Man is based on an actual being from ancient mythology, but I won’t spoil the surprise here. Part of the joy of this movie is seeing how it ties into the spooky lore that inspired its creation.
As a movie ghoul, though, the Owl Man is fantastic. The outstanding practical creature design speaks for itself, but Schofield brings the beast to life in a menacing away. Whether he’s appearing to James or tormenting him with riddles, the psychological terror he inflicts is just as gruesome as his physical appearance. He’s an intelligent monster with a rich backstory, which is way more fascinating than some bird causing chaos for the sake of it.
Lord of Tears is also more inspired by ghost stories and folk horror than it is creature features. The Owl Man is a specter whose presence is peripheral for the most part. He’s a slow-burn tormentor who gets in one’s mind before sticking the claws into them. The film is more focused on creating an oppressive sense of dread and establishing an eerie atmosphere, which it delivers in spades. Lord of Tears is genuinely unsettling, even during the peaceful moments. And when it goes off the rails, it delivers satisfying payoff.
The folklore elements are also noteworthy, and it’s always refreshing to see movies that dig into mythologies that aren’t mainstream or well-known. The universe of Lord of Tears combines Celtic, pagan, and biblical influences, with references to deities and cults that are much cooler than Satan and his minions. But the film brings its own perspective to these ideas, while still remaining authentic to them.
The movie also evokes the idea of how ancient beings have been omnipresent through time and space. They might be unknown to most humans, but they’ve existed before us, and they’ll survive long after we’re all dead. I don’t believe in the supernatural, but movies like Lord of Tears are a reminder of how fascinating our world’s various legends really are. They’re also a reminder of how we’re all just meaningless pawns in the grand scheme of things.
Of course, when it comes to legends, Scotland is culturally rich with frightening fables and spooky lore — from kelpies to The Proclaimers and more. The Highlands is also an inherently creepy region that’s synonymous with the country’s history of superstitions and folktales. Throw in the isolated settings and eerie landscapes, and it’s amazing to think that horror cinema isn’t overly populated with movies set in this part of the world. Lord of Tears is great because it understands that Scotland is creepy, even though its mythology isn’t entirely rooted in native strands.
The performances are strong across the board too, and Hume is a particular standout. She has a magnetic screen presence that makes me wonder why she isn’t a huge star in Hollywood. Her turn here is charming and sweet, with an undercurrent of darkness. Douglas also deserves praise for making his character effortlessly sympathetic. He brings his lonely every man character to life with aplomb, and that goes a long way when it comes time to start worrying about his safety.
And in conclusion…
Hex Studios should be on every horror fan’s radar. Since Lord of Tears, they’ve released some interconnected movies that are just as good. However, this is the perfect introduction to a horror universe that you’ll want to get lost in. I highly recommend this one to fans of The Innocents, The Haunting, Ringu, and The Wicker Man. It’s an entirely different experience, but those are the types of movies Lords of Tears hangs out with.