Starring: George MacKay, Anya Taylor-Joy, Charlie Heaton, Mia Goth, Matthew Stagg
Director: Sergio G Sanchez
When four siblings return home to America in the 60’s with their ailing mother, they try to leave the past behind them. But following their mother’s death, Jack, the eldest, has promised to wait to report her demise til his 21st birthday, which is a few months away, in order to keep the family together. That requires some secrecy, and has they wait out their time in the crumbling house they are plagued by financial problems, the past, and something that unnatural that haunts the house.
If you tell me a film has a crumbling mansion with a strange, supernatural presence, I’m pretty much sold. I love haunted house stories, even if they have a touch of hysteria or the melodramatic. But this film I did not enjoy.
Firstly, it’s a little slow to open and teases at horror elements, but never satisfies them. There’s something in the mirrors, something in the house… But this is not explored or exploited often enough, focusing more on the dramatic elements. The film is not a horror, but a drama, and a true melodrama at that. The plotting is more befitting of a soap opera than anything, and though it might keep you guessing, it’s ultimately all a bit ridiculous.
Speaking of ridiculous, there’s a bad guy in this film. And he’s like something you see in a Hallmark film at Christmas. His motivations and characterisation are silly and belong in a bad chick flick, not in a horror film. He gets an annoying amount of screentime for a subplot that is dull and rather silly.
Thirdly, the ending and the “secrets” lead to a really silly outcome, and an ending that I won’t spoil for you, but that is shockingly irresponsible and nonsensical.
It’s all just a bit… over the top and silly. And I’m saying this as someone who loves over the top horror films. It’s the kind of silly that’s dull, emotionally unengaging.
So what’s good about this film, and will you enjoy it? The house and the surrounding area are all beautifully realised as a crumbling home and the 60’s period. They’re beautifully shot as well, giving the film a pastoral glow, and a nostalgic sense of a golden era. These four children could be on an adventure together in an Enid Blyton book, if one of her books had a really dark back story. It’s also a pleasure to see five wonderful actors in the leading roles of this film. Anya Taylor-Joy and Mia Goth are so good at these kinds of odd films with twisting plots and unusual heroines. George Mackay and Charlie Heaton are also really entertaining, and little Matthew Stagg gives a great performance too.
I think if you go into this film expecting a thriller, and knowing that it’s all going to be OTT, but with a beautiful set, locations and good performances, you might enjoy it. If you’re hoping for a scary film or a film that gets you on the edge of your seat, this really isn’t it. I can’t say it enough, I found this film disappointing and silly. Especially that ending…
(This movie has been out in the US for a while, but is set for release in the UK 13th July)
See It If: you like the lead actors or are looking for shabby chic inspiration for your home decor. Horror fans will be disappointed.