It’s going to be hard to talk about a lot of the particulars of the film without some heavy spoilers, so you have been warned!
First off, let’s get this out of the way, I did like it. But there are a few caveats and addendum I need to add to that.
There are a number of pros and cons to the film, but in the end, I do think that the pros outweigh the cons, though the cons could grow larger if you start to dwell on them.
I did like the fact that the film sparked a dialogue between Sue and I as soon as the lights came up.
First off, let’s start with the the film’s lead Caity Lotz who plays Annie. She has a very sexy Gillian Anderson vibe happening in this film, and to sound completely sexist… She can really rock a tank top. I’m just saying. I had to get that out there.
Annie’s sister Nicole calls her to make sure she is returning to her hometown, and the family house for their late mother’s funeral. However, while she’s there, Nicole is definitely ill-at-ease. In a subtly creepy opening, she’s chatting with her daughter via online video, as the camera follows her through the house, trying to find a signal, until, when the image clears, her daughter asks who that man is standing behind her.
There’s no jump scare, no sudden assault, it just cuts to black, and the story moves forward 3 days.
Unfortunately, the movie is also filled with scares that feel the need to include a musical sting to heighten the scare. That for me, always seems to cheapen it. If the moment works, and in this case, almost all of them do, you don’t need to try and push it over-the top with a musical sting, at that point you seem to be wandering into cliche territory, or pandering to the audience by telling them “it’s scary cause the music makes you jump.”
But I’m getting ahead of myself a bit. Annie arrives at the ole homestead, and can find no trace of her sister, but for her phone in the closet (another well executed creepy moment, even though you know it’s going to happen). Despite being her childhood home, you know she’s not comfortable there, and there are hints that she and Nicole were abused as children.
And the more you think about some of the things you see at the end of the film, one wonders how far that abuse really went…
Annie has been having odd dreams about her home, and a shirtless man sitting weeping on the edge of a bed, these added to the general creep factor the slow-moving camera adds to the exploration of the house, and most of the audience are on edge waiting for the next big moment.
It comes shortly enough, but let’s take a mo and talk about the camera work.
Except for the occasional long-shot, almost the entire film is shot in close-ups and medium shots, putting us right in the moments, as Annie fills the screen, pacing through the house, wondering what’s going to happen, or what you may see next. By keeping everything in medium or close-up the audience isn’t allowed to relax or distance themselves from what’s happening. And it works.
After the funeral, Annie returns home with Nicole’s friend Liz (Kathleen Perkins) and Nicole’s daughter Eva (Dakota Bright). This is when things kick into high gear, as we start to see stalking shadows moving about the house, or creepily standing in doorways, and Annie comes under a full supernatural assault, being thrown and dragged throught the air and across the floor.
Annie, just like everyone else with a brain decides to run, leaving the house for her motorbike, until realilzing Eva’s in the house. It’s then that she begins to realize… there’s another room in the house. A house she lived in for 15 years has a room she has no idea about, and something dark and malevolent within.
She enlists the help of local PD, a grizzled looking Casper Van Dien, Creek. She also goes to see a psychic (Haley Hudson) and her investigation deepens, as she explores the secrets of her house.
This is also where my big problems with the film come to life, so major spoilery stuff ahead.
Nicholas McCarthy, the writer/director (who based this on a short film he made, which I would love to see, so if anyone knows how to track it down…) makes sure we see a chracter’s eyes dilate completely when they die.
Now this leads us directly to the Judas issue. Annie shoots him in the head, he drops dead, and frees the spirit that is haunting the house, and in it’s creepy way has been trying to contact Annie. His eyes do not dilate, which leads us to the expected scare at the very end of the movie.
Which made us think… is he already dead? And doesn’t know that he’s dead?
And if he’s not dead, then why doesn’t the female spirit, Jennifer, who is stuck there pull a full on aerodynamic assault on him instead of pulling it on Annie? That would drive anyone out of the house!
And if he is dead and doesn’t know it (which I can buy) it may also explain why Jennifer can’t fight him, she’s still afraid of him, and explains the lack of dilating eyes, though he believed himself to be shot, and hurt.
He’s also wearing a wedding ring… which is really creepy… cause who would marry him, and he’s also been hiding out in that room for how long? And Annie’s father was never around… could, he maybe be her father… if so… EWWW.
In the end, it’s a spooky and strong film, despite the apparent plot-holes, and the musical stings, added unneccassarily, in my opionion, to push scares over the top.
Join Toronto Aftrer Dark again, for their second Summer Nights program on July 11, when they feature Detention, and V/H/S… check out their site here!!