(2019) Horror (A24) Seána Kerslake, James Quinn Markey, Kati Outinen, David Crowley, Simone Kirby, Steve Wall, Eoin Macken, Sarah Hanley, Andrew Bennett, James Cosmo, John Quinn, Miro Loppen, David McMahon, Alain Eloy, Chloé Grogan, Gregory Praet, Kobe Truijens, Stevie Greaney, Karim Barras, Helena Coppejans. Directed by Lee Cronin
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. A young woman, Sarah (Kerslake) escapes a (possibly abusive) relationship with her young son Chris (Markey) to a creepy old house in the middle of nowhere. One day, her little boy disappears for a short time, only to turn up in his bedroom, insisting he had been there all along.
After that incident, he begins to change in subtle but terrifying ways. Sarah becomes slowly convinced that her boy that disappeared is not the one that returned home, particularly after the rantings of a (possibly demented) old woman (Outinen) proclaim “that is not your son!” Might it have something to do with the gigantic but oddly symmetrical sinkhole near the house that nobody else in the village even knows about?
In the last few years, we’ve been treated to some innovative and downright terrifying movies in the independent horror genre. This isn’t one of them. You get the sense that Cronin is trying too hard to create an atmosphere of dread, but he throws way too many red herrings in our direction, hoping that one will stick. That isn’t to say there aren’t some wonderfully inventive moments with some foreshadowing that hints at infernal roots, and yes, the movie does deliver on some of the scares. Kerslake makes for a resolute heroine, and her emotional journey is believable. I just wish Cronin had had enough faith in his story to pull through without the completely unnecessary white noise that he delivers.
REASONS TO SEE: Kerslake does a fairly decent job.
REASONS TO AVOID: Tries a little too hard to be atmospheric, throwing too many red herrings at the audience.
FAMILY VALUES: There are some disturbing images.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: The pattern on the wallpaper Sarah is working on is a reference to The Shining.
BEYOND THE THEATERS: Amazon, AppleTV, Fandango Now, Google Play, Kanopy, Microsoft, Redbox, Vudu, YouTube
CRITICAL MASS: As of 8/18/20: Rotten Tomatoes: 83% positive reviews, Metacritic: 63/100
COMPARISON SHOPPING: The Prodigy (2019)
FINAL RATING: 6/10
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