Rhymes For Young Ghouls

(Canada, 2013, 88 mins, DCP)
CAST Kawennahere Devery Jacobs, Glen Gould, Brandon Oakes, Mark Antony Krupa, Roseanne Supernault


Revenge is a rite of passage in Jeff Barnaby’s audacious, genre-bending debut. The reigning "weed princess" of Red Crow reserve, teenage Aila (Kawennahere Devery Jacobs) communes with spirits as she plots against Popper (Mark Antony Krupa), the callous Indian Agent who’s tormented her community for generations. However, in order to exact her vengeance, she must infiltrate the residential school that looms ominously above the reserve and has become the stuff of ghost stories and nightmares for every Mi’kmaq child.

Courtesy of meticulous production design, Barnaby rigorously constructs a gritty 70s milieu that lends itself well to country noir flourishes that recall Winter’s Bone. But the moment you’re convinced you have a read on Ghouls, it unleashes its more surreal elements and begins to spin its own rich mythology. And while the druggy revenge fantasy that ensues owes a debt to exploitation films, it’s guided by its own idiosyncratic rhythms and fueled by a genuine sense of outrage over the horrors perpetrated during the residential school era.

Preceded by the short film The Magic Salmon (Andrew Struthers, 7 min)

"It’s a tough, gritty piece of work, long on the violence but invested with the poetic sensibility you find in a Cormac McCarthy novel or Tom Waits song… [It] marks the arrival of a genuine cinematic intelligence, one sensitive to life’s more intimate, tender, even spiritual moments yet not averse to slamming the sledgehammer as circumstances require."—James Adams, Globe and Mail

’Exhibiting a vivid eye for potent imagery and a striking sense of the downtrodden vitriol [Rhymes For Young Ghouls] is a tremendously rousing film that announces the arrival of an exciting new voice in Canadian cinema." Scott A Gray, exclaim

"It has been years, probably since Xavier Dolan emerged with I Killed My Mother, since a Canadian director has debuted with a movie as impressive as Jeff Barnaby and Rhymes for Young Ghouls." Marina Antunes, Row Three