By Amanda Gilmore
Master follows three Black women at an elite New England university, Ambrose College, built on the site of a Salem-era gallows hill. Gail Bishop (Regina Hall) has just been instated as Master, first-year student Jasmine Moore (Zoe Renee) is trying to find her place, and literature professor Liv Beckman (Amber Gray) attempts to get her tenure. The three women navigate the politics and privilege of the campus and encounter increasingly terrifying manifestations of the school’s haunted past and present.
Writer-Director Mariama Diallo crafts an assured, compelling Feature debut. Like the finest of Psychological Horrors, Master excels in its social critique. It examines the racism and classism on campuses, however, it strives in connecting what happens at Ambrose College to everywhere. Diallo achieves this through her steady direction and precise Script. Additionally, she’s gifted audiences with a fresh take on the genre.
Diallo entwines the past and the present. The past for the history of black students dying in the room to which Jasmine has been assigned, and the present for the racism of the current students and faculty. In doing so, Diallo expertly toys with our minds making us question and guess until the very end. Additionally, she creates a chilling watch from start to finish. With expert use of lighting, sound and production design Diallo creates an eerie atmosphere interpolated with unsettling, frightening moments.
Then there are the powerful performances from this Cast. Hall gives a commanding performance as the Master battling with what she should and shouldn’t do and believe. Upcoming talent Renee gives a captivating performance as a young woman trying to find her place. Then there’s Gray who gives the perfect amount of mystery to Liv, allowing for some psychological aspects of the Script to thrive.
Master will be released on Prime Video March 18, 2022.
Master screens virtually at Sundance:
Premiere: Jan. 21 at 8:30PM EST
Second Screening: Jan. 22 at 10AM EST (available for 24hrs)