Don’t be fooled by recent teasers & trailers you have seen for this film directed by Mark Tonderai. You might think it’s a paint by numbers pseudo slasher flick but you would be wrong. In fact throughout the movie there are small tidbits horror fans would laugh at, well they did at my screening, such as: hearing a strange noise then opening the only locked door to investigate, or going down into locked cellars by yourself that are obviously trying to be hidden and the proverbial girl falling down while running away from the villain. I take it that Tonderai is paying homage to the genre because at the same time we get scenes that we’ve seen before in horror films but they play out differently. The film has a good balance of scares and comedy relief that isn’t so jarring that you forget you’re watching a horror movie.
Elisa played by Jennifer Lawrence (Hunger Games) and her mother Sarah played by Elisabeth Shue (Leaving Las Vegas, Adventures in Babysitting) move to a new town. The relationship between them is rocky at best as we learn that this is essentially a broken family; it is just now that Sarah is trying to be a “good mother”, the father is non-existent and Elisa who is 17 has pretty much grown up on her own. Lawrence brings a strong independent quality to Elisa that shows in the way she acts and speaks to whoever is around. When push comes to shove she isn’t a hapless damsel in distress but holds her own and is intuitive. Their new home is adjacent to the Jacobson residence, otherwise known as “The Murder House”, where a girl killed both her parents; the urban legend is that the girl, Carrie Anne, still lives in the woods. Living in the house now is the son Ryan played by Max Thierlot (My Soul to Take) who is labeled as an outcast, weirdo, and the reason why property value is low. Ryan was away with his grandma when the incident occurred but he is scarred emotionally and psychologically from it.
Director Mark Tonderai does a fine job at creating a world where we only see one side of the story. Only Elisa and local Police Officer Weaver played by Gil Bellows defend Ryan while the rest of the town, including Sarah, thinks he is a threat. Thierlot conveys the character of Ryan with a quiet solace, after time you’re siding with Elisa & Officer Weaver and wondering why the town won’t just leave Ryan alone. The presentation of Carrie Anne is something out of Frankenstein. When she kills her parents: it’s a rainy & stormy night with thunder & lightning; she is shot from low angles making her appear statuesque, she has an emotionless look on her face and her actions are quick, vicious and animalistic. We find out that Ryan has been keeping Carrie Anne “safe” in the basement and has been taking care of her since the incident. When she escapes the tone of the music and shots used make Carrie Anne look like a brutal, killing machine yet she still is only a frail, pale, blonde girl in a nightgown.
What seems to be a generic horror film actually has a lot of depth to it. Not only was I talking about it right after but was also envisioning other aspects of the film that were only slightly touched upon; where that story alone could’ve been a movie in itself. As I said the promotion for this film might lead you into thinking this film is one thing but I assure you it’s a slice of something different altogether.
3 out of 5