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The Occidentalist


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Saltburn: A Horrendous Attempt at a Psychological Horror

Saltburn has taken the internet by storm for the actors and questionable scenes

After Emerald Fennell’s first film, “Promising Young Women” was met with both controversy and praise, many were on the edge of their seats wondering what she would do next. “Saltburn,” her sophomore film, began filming in Northamptonshire, England, in July 2022. The cast featured “Euphoria” star Jacob Elordi, Barry Keoghan from “The Banshees of Inisherin,” Rosamund Pike, Alison Oliver and Archie Madewke. 

  The first act takes place at Oxford University in England, where Oliver (Keoghan) is somewhat a shy, resolved student and doesn’t fit in with the general rich party crowd; although he envies them from afar. He eventually meets Felix (Elordi), who blends him into his posey and introduces him to his cousin Farleigh (Madewke). The two grow close, and after Oliver opens up about his traumatic past with his mother’s drug addiction and having nowhere to go during break, Felix invites him to his summer mansion, Saltburn. 

  At Saltburn, Oliver reunites with Farleigh, and meets Felix’s mom (Pike) and sister (Oliver). Despite feeling out of place, the family immediately falls for Oliver, while Oliver continues to be smitten with Felix. Throughout the movie, Oliver changes and adapts, adjusting to the atmosphere of entitled rich and free, all leading up to the birthday party Felix’s mother throws for him. Oliver proceeds to inundate the estate, harming the entire family through several events and taking them down, leaving the fate of Saltburn up in the air. 

  The entire movie rides on bad writing and shock factor; while the scenes in the movies might come off disturbing and disgusting at first glance, you realize they barely offer anything to the movie at all, it comes off as stupid and slapped in randomly. Personally, if you’re going for shock factor, make it something actually interesting and intriguing that relates to the movie. 

  It was clear Fennell attempted to make “Saltburn” a metaphor relating to the minotaur, a half man half bull staple in Greek mythology. The story of the minotaur centers around a creature trapped in a labyrinth (which is why Fennell attempts to make the maze on the property such an influential place storywise last minute), who devours Athenian sacrifices. The creature is considered a monster, although the events that made the creature are completely out of his control. Even though it was an incredible reach, Fennell alluded to this metaphor multiplie times by randomly panning to the maze during the movie or by the horns Oliver wears in multiple scenes. Fennell attempted to incorporate foreshadowing/easter eggs throughout the movie, but it always almost feels shoved down the audience’s throat. 

  Although Fennell reached and failed for a deep and dark psychological horror, the result left was an empty shell of a film, despite gorgeous cinematography. The setting and camerawork made the movie aesthetically pleasing to watch, and combined with the amazing soundtrack featuring artists like MGMT, Ladytron and Sophie Ellis-Baxtor, it almost made the movie worth a watch. 

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About the Contributor
Tess Tarchak-Hiss
Tess Tarchak-Hiss, Section Editor, Page Designer
Tess Tarchak-Hiss is a sophomore in her second year of newspaper. She is currently a journalist and chose to take this class to improve her AP writing skills, and because she has an interest in journalism. In her free time, Tess likes to roller skate, play guitar, and watch movies.  

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