A solar eclipse seems to be interfering with the menstrual cycle of women everywhere and wreaking havoc on their hormones. The result is a need to kill any and every man they see. This is Joshua Nelson’s horror-comedy Menopause.
We have reviewed a couple of Joshua Nelson’s films before here on Screen Critix and they are all filmed in a very similar style. Nelson practices a lot of the same shots and uses the same actors, and although Menopause is a bit of a misstep, it does enable us to say that as a filmmaker Nelson clearly has his own style. While I wouldn’t go so far as to call him an auteur, his films are all visually similar and follow the same structure. You certainly know when you are watching a Joshua Nelson Film.
Earlier films of Nelson have had a sense of fun and enjoyment to them, but the main problem we have with Menopause is that it’s actually quite a misogynistic piece of filmmaking and a little bit mean-spirited. You notice this as soon as the film opens with a homage to Psycho. A vicious stabbing is taking place by a female attacker and we have blood and gore splattering everywhere. Once finished with the murder our female killer calmly walks to the freezer and begins eating ice cream, because “that’s what women do when they are in bad moods”. The film then changes tack and we are back on familiar Nelson territory as pairs of actors are grouped together as couples and begin to talk through their problems in Nelson’s familiar talking heads style.
Unfortunately, that’s not the end of the chauvinism because throughout the film all the women are either complaining, nagging, or killing their male counterparts. As the film progresses and the solar eclipse gets closer, the female characters all become more vicious, vindictive, and downright evil. But with nods towards, Stepford Wives, Children of The Damned, and The Handmaids Tale, Nelson does it all with a knowing wink.
An ensemble piece where each actor is given their moment, we have a couple of good performances coming from Tony Murphy who creates a great sleazy ex-husband; reminding me of a WWE wrestler talking trash, and Carrie Plumley as his ex-wife. There is also a memorable, if a deeply unpleasant and ill-judged character named Gloria, whose partner has cancer. The real stand out is Julia Wyrzuc as Marsha who manages to create the only sympathetic character in the entire film, using her voice and emotions to great effect.
Nelson, thanks to his cinematographer Michael Zayacs, manages to create some nice imagery where the use of mainly natural lighting and only one or two characters allows them to frame some interesting shots. There are some particularly nice flourishes within the women’s support group scenes, especially when they kidnap one of the male characters. Music is used sparingly and effectively enough to keep the unease rumbling, while the main track is a decent emo cover of the old rock standard House of The Rising Sun.
Overall the film isn’t horrific enough to be classed as horror or funny enough to be a comedy and the depiction of women leaves a lot to be desired, but we have seen Nelson’s work before and know he is capable of much much more. Menopause is a bit of a misfire, but I’m sure he and his cast will come back stronger and I’ll look forward to seeing Nelson’s signature style all over his next project.