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Depression Is A Beast

average rating is 4 out of 5


William Hemingway


Posted on:

May 14, 2024

Film Reviews
Depression Is A Beast
Directed by:
Courtney Dixon
Written by:
Courtney Dixon
Jenna Kanell

For those of you who like your films scary, it’s likely that you’ll need no introduction to Jenna Kanell. Breaking through as Tara Heyes in Terrifier (2016), then cementing her place in the Horror annals as Kim Hansen in The Bye Bye Man (2017), Jenna has also collected credits from a whole bunch of other work along the way, including her turn as Carol in recent Nic Cage vampire thriller, Renfield (2023).


A quick scout of her IMDb page will tell you that Jenna Kanell is one of the hardest working young talents in the industry today, not just in front of the camera as actress and full-on stuntwoman, but also behind the scenes as writer, director and producer on several different projects. Picking through her back catalogue though, one thing jumps out at you, one genre that comes up again and again and which dominates the film choices that Jenna has made throughout her career – the Horror.


Sadly, Jenna has felt that she has carried her own horror around with her for most of her life – the spectre of depression – and it is this which has pushed her to find a creative outlet in film, just preferably film with blood, teeth and jump scares. In Depression Is A Beast, director Courtney Dixon sits down with Jenna to discuss what life has been like for her growing up with this constant shadow always hovering in the background, helping to show us with some of her own horror imagery how Jenna’s feelings have been transferred through film.


Employing a whole host of visual effects and variety of narrative threads, including animation and home video, Dixon takes the words of Jenna Kanell and runs them through the wringer, squeezing and distilling every drop of horror contained within them until only the imagery remains. The constantly switching visual style along with multiple camera viewpoints, from Super-8, to VHS, to digital and even from Jenna’s major films, all adds to the sense of unease as the viewer listens to Jenna’s story. Plenty of horror themes and tropes are visited in the ever shifting seas of the imagery, but each one hits its mark in conveying what is being said or shared, and none of them ever feel wasted or overused.


There’s a very smooth feel behind the production of Depression Is A Beast. Jenna Kanell is a very exciting and engaging focus and she holds the attention of the documentary well, but it’s the production design, visual effects and hard-fire editing which tell you that somebody’s taking this subject seriously. In fact, three different production companies were responsible for each of these elements – with Sequitur Cinema in charge of filming, Mingle taking on post-production and Coat Of Arms creating the VFX – ensuring that the specialists played to their strengths and the best outcome was achieved.


Throughout everything though, Courtney Dixon’s vision climbs out of the darkness, through the front of your TV and onto your lap, as she helps you get to grips with the same horror that so many of us carry around. Both Courtney’s and Jenna’s ability to translate their feelings into images allows for a common understanding to be shared in a way that will feel familiar to many and even if horror films are not your bag, Depression Is A Beast will help show you there is nothing to fear.

About the Film Critic
William Hemingway
William Hemingway
Short Film, Documentary, LGBTQ+
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