Sinister Screens

Refuge (2023) ★★★



After a mysterious attack from a malevolent demon during his tour of duty in Afghanistan, Sergeant Rick Pedroni returns home a changed man, and more dangerous than ever.


Refuge, directed by Renny Harlin, is a supernatural possession story that is intertwined with the war in Afghanistan. An American soldier is possessed by a malevolent spirit (a djinn) while pursuing combatants in a remote cave the locals refuse to go into. The American soldier returns home a host to this ancient entity.

What’s interesting in this movie is the metaphoric play between possession and war trauma/PTSD. Also how hate is a true form of possession. This is displayed in the cultural divide between Americans and Muslims living in the United States. It is ultimately conquered by the love of people united. So there is a lot of symbolism at play throughout this film. Some of it works, some seems far-fetched when grounded to reality. There’s a turning moment in the film towards the end that just feels forced and unlikely.

The acting in this film is rather good. It features a convincing young married couple Kate and Rick played by Sophie Simnett and Aston McAuley. This film also features director Renny Harlin’s wife (Johanna Harlin) who plays a VA doctor. The special effects are not bad either. Particularly the sand-swept scenes of the demon migrating between hosts. There’s some creepy trauma masks worn by the American soldiers back at the VA. So the film does have its share of good points.

Overall it’s not a bad movie. It’s not great, either. Which brings about my biggest concern. Renny Harlin has been given the keys to the forthcoming The Strangers reboot/trilogy and I hope he can step up his game from this release. If not, then The Strangers franchise will take a giant step backwards. And I will be extremely bummed.

Rating: ★★★ (out of 5)

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