From Australian filmmaker Natalie Erika James (first feature film) comes a new kind of take on the age old haunted house film. You can revisit subjects or themes as long as you bring something new to the table.
A haunted house is a scary thing as it is not something which you can see or has a physical manifestation that you can stop. Perfect fodder for a horror film. Also a fruitful area for investigation. The possibilities are endless. Unfortunately the film world has often gone back to the same version over and over causing the public to weary of the horror sub genre.
Here James, as director and co-screenwriter, has recognized the potential of the haunted house and puts it into action.
After her mother, who has been showing signs of dementia taking over, has disappeared Kay (Emily Mortimer – Match Point, Transsiberian) and her daughter Sam (Bella Heathcote – In Time, Dark Shadows) travel to Edna’s (Robyn Nevin – The Matrix Revolutions, Gods of Egypt) town and house to try and find her.
While they are successful, the state they find her in makes their worry continue. She is acting strange. Kay believes it is just due to the encroaching dementia, so begins to look into facilities for Edna to move to. Sam is not so sure. She begins to see things which cannot be explained away as Edna losing her mind. Edna, of course, fights the idea of being put in a home wanting to remain in her secluded rural home that is crumbling around her.
As time goes on even Kay begins to realize that there is something more going on here. She and Sam begin to believe that it is the house itself which is making thing happen. Inexplicable things. Frightening things. It has advanced so much that it seems like the house might now be controling Edna.
Bringing a film to life which is not only dark, but feels it is a big ask. This combo has tripped up many a filmmaker. While this is most certainly not a fantastic film, director James shows that she knows how to bring an involved story to the big screen.
While most will identify this as a horror film (and in many ways it is using the typical tropes of the genre) what it truly is at its essence is an emotional tale of aging and the mind. How scary dementia is with its loss of control and memory. Scary in that there are no real treatments for it and no way to prevent it.
That being said what does hamper the film quite a bit is the slothlike pace for the most part. Many will lose interest before the good stuff starts. It takes too long to get to the really scary parts and some action. The last third of the film is really good. It is a tense watch. But it takes too long to get there.