In 1920, the French Canadian child Aurore Gagnon, age 10, died as a result of abuse inflicted by her father and stepmother. The autopsy revealed horrifying details—her body was covered with more than 50 wounds, including some caused by branding—and eyewitness testimony revealed the stepmother had also tried to get Aurore to drink poison. Rather surprisingly, the father served only five years in prison, and the stepmother served only 15 years. But Aurore, known in Quebec as l’enfant martyre (The Child Martyr), had the last word, since her legend outlived them all; among other things, her story has served as the basis for a play, several novels, and French-language films in 1952 and 2005.
Curse of Aurore, a new English-language film directed by Mehran C. Torgoley, references the legend of Aurore, and that connection was part of the reason I was interested in seeing this film. Sad to say, it doesn’t do much with the story of Aurore, instead treating it as a hook to attract interest for a pretty standard found-footage horror film. Curse of Aurore also features an up-to-date framing device—real-life YouTube personality Casey Nolan appears as himself, buying a “Dark Web Mystery Box” which turns out to be a jump drive containing the video of the young filmmakers attempting to make a horror film about Aurore.
That may sound like the snake eating its own tail, but it works fine in the context of this film (and I must admit to having a weakness for framing stories, which were commonly employed by one of my favorite horror writers, M.R. James). The story proper features three young people—Lena (Llana Barron), Aaron (Lex Wilson), and Kevin (Jordan Kaplan)—who travel to Fortierville, the home of both Lena and Aurore, to make what they hope will be a commercially successful film about Aurore. The three young filmmakers have pretty good chemistry with each other, even if the guys sometimes come off as ugly Americans—particularly Kevin, who has no scruples about stealing anything and everything, from a can of beer to a spell book containing key information that sets the story’s conclusion in motion. The trio also interact with a variety of locals, including a tarot card reader whose home décor and choice of apparel is entirely on the nose, and they basically bumble their way toward a final ten minutes that is seriously scary.
There’s nothing really new in Curse of Aurore, apart from the invocation of the real-life story, so you can look forward to jump scares, faces that appear and disappear in mirrors and the like, crosses that turn upside down under their own steam, doors slamming shut of their own accord, and ghostly evidence that is seen clearly only when the filmmakers are reviewing what they have already shot (thank goodness for the digital age—imagine having to send film out to be developed before you could get confirmation that you are being haunted). But it’s effective enough, in a low-budget sort of way, and there are some nice visual details that help sell the story. For instance, if anyone knows the name of the cool tarot deck used in this film, you could do me and probably a lot of other curious viewers a favor by letting us know in a reply to this review.* | Sarah Boslaugh
Curse of Aurore is available on VOD beginning Jan. 12 through Freestyle Digital Media.
* Thanks to AJ Feuerman, who tells us the tarot deck was custom made by David Robert Donatucci, who has (among other things) worked as an Art Director and in the Art Department for several films and video games, including The Da Vinci Code (lead artist for the video game) and Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (lead artist for the video game).