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What it’s about:

Headmaster Gail Bishop (Regina Hall), first-year student Jasmine Moore (Zoe Renee), and professor Liv Beckman (Amber Gray) attempt to find their place in an elite university. To their dismay, the campus seems to be haunted by supernatural acts of racism.

Names you might know:

Notable names include Regina Hall (Girls Trip) and Amber Gray (Hadestown), with Mariama Diallo making her directorial debut.

Why it’s worth your time:

Mariama Diallo’s horror-comedy short Hair Wolf provided laughs and social commentary on racism. In this new thriller, she continues to cover the topic, but in a more serious tone. The film convincingly offers haunting scenes and blurs the lines of reality. Diallo works well with the eerie point of view of being a minority on campus of a prestigious (and predominantly white) school. With creepy old portraits, photos of old Black house workers, burning crosses, and a few legitimate scares, Diallo solidifies the project as a true horror film.

Amazon Studios

Regina Hall plays Gail Bishop, a professor and the first Black Resident Hall Master of the university. We see her struggle with her new role and the pressures that come with it. Things become more complicated when a noose is found in the room of Jasmine, one of the only Black students on campus. Gail tries to keep Jasmine encouraged as she struggles to adapt to the culture and mistreatment given by her roommate.

Not only does Jasmine struggle with racist threats and her awful roommate, she also believes she’s being haunted by a witch known for torturing and killing the previous occupants of her room. The lack of actual proof of the witch’s existence coupled with a host of issues Jasmine faces on campus, she is understandably tempted to leave, but is encouraged by Gail to be persistent and endure.

Jasmine is also at odds with professor Liv Beckman because she fails to see an assignment’s race-driven aspect. This prompts Jasmine to file a complaint against the professor, threatening her tenure opportunity. Since Gail finds solace in Liv, she is stuck in a hard place when she finds out about Jasmine’s complaint which could potentially hinder Liv’s career. She also stands up for her friend when the staff argues that Liv’s publication history may not make her a suitable candidate.

The final act sets up the three women to face their fears and unearth secrets that will change their lives forever. Diallo provides an ending that feels relatable and that reflects the challenges some educational institutions face today.

Hall’s character is the polar opposite of the comedic roles for which she’s most known. She displays great chemistry with Zoe as a mentor. Master is a great film that straddles the line between horror and thriller, with a biting social commentary underlying it all. It’s no wonder it’s being compared to films like Get Out. The film is only 90 minutes long, but unnoticeably so due to excellent pacing. While two to three-hour movies are common these days (and sometimes exhausting), often stretching into a multi-episode series, Master tells a satisfyingly good story with a great ending in an appropriate amount of time.

The takeaway:

Master is a social commentary thriller/horror without the blood or gore. Supernatural aspect aside, it addresses very real issues that some college educational systems struggle with.

Watch it with:

A group of friends and fans of Jordan Peele, of course.

Worth noting:

This is Mariama Diallo’s directorial debut and was a 2022 Sundance Film Festival selection.

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