Hopedale Mail

Terrifying Echoes of Trauma

The Clearing


Genre: Drama, Mystery, Thriller
Year Released: 2023
Runtime: 8 x 45m episodes
Director(s): Jeffrey Walker, Gracie Otto
Creator(s): Elise McCredie, Matt Cameron
Writer(s): Elise McCredie, Matt Cameron, 
Cast: Teresa Palmer, Miranda Otto, Guy Pearce, Hazem Shammas, Mark Coles-Smith, Kate Mulvany, Julia Savage, Osamah Sami
Where To Watch: premiering with two episodes on Hulu on May 24, 2023, followed by new episodes every Wednesday

RAVING REVIEW: It's time to plunge into the depths of THE CLEARING, an eight-part psychological drama that will take you into this world inspired by real-life cults worldwide. Based on J.P. Pomare's 'In The Clearing,' this series showcases the chilling reality of what happens in these closed-off societies. This may be the closest that you ever get to being a member.

The series lays its foundation with a compelling ensemble cast. Miranda Otto, portraying the unnerving cult leader Adrienne, is a slow-burning terror – unsettling and inescapable. In her shadow, Guy Pearce stands as a figure of silent fortitude as Dr. Bryce Latham. But it's Kate Mulvany's character Tamsin Latham who steals the spotlight by becoming the terrifying embodiment of the cult with her icy demeanor and undying loyalty.

The narrative is fueled by the intricate relationship between two "daughters" of the cult. Their complex counterbalance of light and dark, defiance and submission, old affections, and present horrors keep viewers hooked. The dynamic performances by the cast breathe life into these characters, making their journey an emotional roller coaster ride. It brings a sense of authenticity to them that, in turn, makes their entire world more believable.

THE CLEARING chooses to weave a plot thick with terror and surprise while adding some traditional cult-like experiences. It's a ride through a labyrinth of shocking revelations constantly destabilize the characters. Taking what you think you know about them and pulling that away like a rug from under you.

The series attempts to show a fictionalized account of the Australian New Age group, The Family (which is still active today, they have been accused of systematic abuse.) Rose McGowan, all four of the Phoneix brothers, and their sister are just some of the more well-known members who escaped their grasp. The series offers a haunting echo of a member's traumatic past and resonates throughout the narrative as a stark reminder of the terrifying experiences they may have endured.

THE CLEARING, set against this beautiful country landscape, the cinematography beautifully contrasts the breathtaking Australian outdoors with the terrifying secrets of the cult. The isolation of the commune, imposed against the bustling life outside, underscores the characters' secret lives and depicts a relentless race against time to save innocent children from a life of manipulation and control. It expertly balances the internal power struggle within the cult and the ceaseless battle against past specters that a single mother and her son must confront.

THE CLEARING occasionally falters under the weight of its aspirations. Yet, the performances bring the series up enough to overcome any shortcomings. By employing dual timelines, the series can shine a light on the chilling legacy of the cult. While also engaging the viewers and pulling them into this more extensive-than-life experience. THE CLEARING offers an accurate portrayal of trauma and its aftermath. It guides viewers through the brutal reality of PTSD, making the characters' journey more authentic and relatable.

While THE CLEARING might not fit a cult drama's typical mold, it delivers an unforgettable viewing experience that borders on horror because of the mental strain the characters anguish through. It's a testament to the resilience of the human spirit in the face of unimaginable horrors, brought to life by standout performances. Despite a few narrative hiccups, the series ensures a captivating journey that will keep you hooked until the end credits roll.

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[photo courtesy of HULU]