Samara Weaving bloody in Azrael with a stylized custom background | Agents of Fandom

SXSW 2024: No-Dialogue Horror Flick ‘Azrael’ Delivers on Blood and Bold Action

Samara Weaving cements her Scream Queen status, but ‘Azrael’ could use a touch more world building.

Samara Weaving is no stranger to the bloody action subgenre of films, starring in cult classics like 2017’s Mayhem alongside Steven Yeun and 2019’s sinister horror flick Ready or Not, and is a certified Scream Queen. Azrael allows her to continue her streak and showcase her badassery on screen but this time a bit differently — with no dialogue.

‘Azrael’ Review: A Horror Film Drenched in Tension and Blood

A bloodied Azrael (Samara Weaving) rests after fighting her way to freedom in Azrael. I Agents of Fandom
A bloodied Azrael (Samara Weaving) fights her way to freedom in Azrael. Image Credit: Republic Pictures.

Azrael takes place in a world where nobody speaks and there are physical manifestations of the widespread evil so prevalent in guiding the state of humanity — picture oil-covered zombies that feast on human blood. Samara Weaving’s character, Azrael, has recently escaped imprisonment from a clan of lawless individuals who sacrifice prisoners to the surrounding evil “zombies” in an effort to ward off the deep-rooted evil of the world in some way.

After being quickly recaptured by the ruthless leaders in charge, Azrael is set to be donated as physical atonement to the ancient evil surrounding the wilderness she resides in. Over the course of the breezy 85-minute runtime, Azrael fights for her freedom from both human and evil forces, all the while remaining devout to her inability to speak.

The premise and overall execution of Azrael are pretty impressive for a speechless film. In order to offset the lack of dialogue, a film generally needs to bolster amazing action or possess crisp cinematography — of which both appear in starts and stops throughout this movie, more the former and less the latter, fortunately.

The film commences with the capture, attempted sacrifice, and first escape of Azrael, using this microcosm of the entire plot to reveal how the rest of the movie will transpire. It also opens with intriguing camerawork from cinematographer Mart Taniel and precise direction from E.L. Katz. A one-shot forest fight is exhibited as the perfect tone setter for the film, diving into both entertaining movie-making and intriguing narrative and keeping you on the edge of your seat through the entire runtime. A few additional one-shots and grotesque encounters later, the end of the film offers up the most intriguing commentary of the entire project, affirming its deep roots in the religious horror subgenre.

A Lack of Lore Hinders What ‘Azrael’ Could Have Been

The film, unfortunately, did leave me wanting more. It offers up too much intrigue in the way of lore — why do people not speak, how did this lawless clan of forest dwellers amass, and what really are the blood-seeking “zombies” that so often find themselves being used as narrative catapults — but refuses to elaborate on said lore, leaving the viewer more frustrated than engaged.

As the credits rolled, I couldn’t help but turn to being hellbent on understanding more about the world of Azrael, even if the director didn’t want me to. I think there is a lot there that I want to understand. And, without spoiling, the ending is easy to point to as the sole determinant in making me feel so anxious for more mythology.

I’m not interested in a spin-off and sequel per se, but the tightly contained 85 minutes of Azrael had the opportunity to faithfully explore what made the movie so intriguing in the first place. It’s a true double-edged sword as part of the mystical magic is the lack of knowledge — but a double-edged sword that remains clean in its sheath from the action-horror flick’s confounding lack of commitment to either lore or action.

The movie is greatly enjoyable — featuring slick camera movement, appealing ideas, and a final 10 minutes that are truly enough to leave you speechless — yet remains frustrating upon further exploration. Azrael executes the no-dialogue narrative, keeping the film bold and bloody enough to remain gripping through to the credits, a feat unto its own marvel.

Weaving’s bodily performance cements her as a horror stalwart and I can’t help but want her to make something like this once a year — something where she gets to experiment, show off her unique acting chops, and be a badass. Alas, Azrael, currently sitting with no wide release date, will most likely fade into the dark of the surrounding evils (read: streamers) much as the boldness of the idea and lackluster execution of the film itself do.

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'Azrael' SXSW 2024 Review

'Azrael' SXSW 2024 Review
3 5 0 1
3.0 rating
Total Score

The Good

  • Samara Weaving continues her living her Scream Queen moniker — embodying high-end, blood-soaked action.
  • The religious roots give the narrative a deeper reason for existing.

The Bad

  • A lack of lore greatly hinders the final act and big action moments throughout the film.
  • Action is hit or miss on compensating for a no-dialogue narrative.
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