SANZARU (2020) Reviews and release news

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Sanzaru is a 2020 American horror film about a home help who begins to question her sanity when dementia engulfs her elderly female employer.

Written, co-produced and directed by Xia Magnus, the Oneonetwosix Films production stars Aina Dumlao, Justin Arnold, Jayne Taini, Jon Viktor Corpuz, Tomorrow Shea and Matthew Albrecht.


Sanzaru mixes eastern and western traditions to create an eerie and affecting ghost story. It’s a dark tale full of secrets, mysteries and suspicion. Trauma permeates through all these characters […] Sanzaru is an unusual and fragmentary tale which will slowly ebb into your psyche and bury itself there.” Backseat Mafia

“Although it nearly doesn’t stick the landing, with things culminating abruptly and ending with less gravitas than the build-up had me anticipating, Sanzaru remains a thoughtfully crafted story that combines dread with melodrama to deliver a creepy, nuanced horror tale.” Film Pulse

“Xia Magnus has seemingly always had one foot in the fringe theater scene and one foot firmly planted in the harsh realities of life; both come into play in this deeply moving yet unsettingly feature debut. Sanzaru simultaneously feels like a story that comes alive in households across America, while amplifying the reality into a deep, impactful exploration of the spoken and unspoken wounds that haunt our minds and the worlds we leave behind.” The Independent Critic

“Magnus’s approach is slow-burn, open up the possibility of the supernatural, but keep the sense of reality going until you’re ready to spring the spooky on the audience […] this is a strong piece of dramatic filmmaking. The cinematography by Mark Khalife has just the right lighting for a mood of pending dread, and the score by Carolyn Pennypacker Riggs doesn’t go for cheap jumps, but building dread…” Sonic Cinema

Sanzaru may finally tip towards melodrama – albeit of the most subdued kind – but ultimately succeeds as a ghost story concerned with the situation in the present as well as the phantoms of the past. Delicate, deeply empathetic and possessed of genuine humanity for all its melancholy tone and crepuscular framing, Xia Magnus’ debut is a hell of a calling card.” The Wee Review


Sanzaru premiered at the 2020 Slamdance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, on January 26th 2020.

In North America, Freestyle Digital Media will release Sanzaru to rent or buy on digital HD internet, cable, and satellite platforms on November 16, 2021.

Director’s statement:

“We’re thrilled to share Sanzaru with the world,” said filmmaker Xia Magnus. “As a meditation on forced isolation and family trauma, we think it’s a prescient film for these difficult times.”

Cast and characters:

Aina Dumlao … Evelyn
Justin Arnold … Clem Regan
Jayne Taini … Dena Regan
Jon Viktor Corpuz … Amos
Tomorrow Shea … Susan Regan
Matthew Albrecht … Mailman

Filming locations:

Victoria, Texas

Technical details:

100 minutes

Fun facts:

In Japanese, the term sanzaru refers to the mythical trio of wise monkeys who respectively hear, speak and see no evil.


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