Our House


Something dark awaits at the bottom of the stairs.

(2018) Horror (IFC Midnight) Thomas Mann, Xavier de Guzman, Nicola Peltz, Percy Hynes White, Allison Hossack, Carlyn Burchell, Christine Horne, John Ralston, Lucius Hoyos, Robert B. Kennedy, Marcia Bennett, Aaron Hale, Kate Moyer, Stefanie Nakamura, Neil Whitely, Evan Marsh, Ryan Wilson, Jennifer Nichols. Directed by Anthony Scott Burns

 

The world is full of doors. Some are open, others are closed to us. Some of them should stay that way and others are downright dangerous to open even the tiniest of cracks.

Ethan (Mann) is a brilliant engineer/physicist who shares the dream of Nicola Tesla to make electricity wireless, available cheaply for anyone. He knows an invention like this could be his ticket to the good life; although he and his parents (Ralston, Hossack) are pretty well-off. Ethan’s studies make him essentially an empty chair in the house; his mom and dad (and brother Matt (White) and sister Becca (Moyer), a brooding teen and adorable moppet) wish he was home more often.

But Ethan is obsessed with his work and during a rare family gathering he cuts out early with his girlfriend Hannah (Peltz) to work on his creation in the deserted AI lab – except he’s not really supposed to be there. Things don’t go well at the lab – he doesn’t have enough power to make the device work – and ends up overloading the system and causing a campus-wide outage.

Things go from bad to worse when a call from home reveals that his parents have died in a car crash, leaving him to raise his two siblings alone. Three months later he has quit school and a promising future to work in a local electronics store. That doesn’t mean he’s given up on his project which he continues to work on in his spare time.

But his project has some unexpected side effects; it turns out that what he’s doing is amplifying the paranormal energy in the house, making it possible for the dead to communicate with the living and even materialize. The more power that Ethan draws with the help of a friendly neighbor (Kennedy) who works at the local power company (and whose wife recently committed suicide) the closer the spirits of his parents come to fully materializing. That would be good for Matt and Becca but extraordinarily bad as the range is beginning to widen and there are spirits who aren’t nearly as benevolent residing in the house.

There are some classic Spielberg-like qualities to the film; the close-knit suburban neighborhood, the family without parents, the bittersweet tone and the young genius. However, this isn’t yo Daddy’s Spielberg; this is something else. As with films like The Conjuring series, Although this doesn’t have the budget or the publicity push of those films, it actually does a pretty solid job of building up the tension slowly before going into overdrive at the end.

The juvenile leads have to carry the movie and they do a pretty good job overall. Poor Katie Moyer is given a pretty cliché sensitive little girl role who is the first to start sensing the return of her parents, who sleeps in her big brother’s room and is seemingly the most torn up over the loss of her parents. In fact, all of the young juveniles handle the difficult emotion of grief surprisingly well.

The special effects are pretty slim pickings but that’s okay; the filmmakers get a lot out of a little. There does appear to have been some post-production controversy; the director of photography pulled his name from the credits and the electropop duo Electric Youth withdrew their score after changes were made during Post and released the music on the soundtrack to a lost movie.

However to be honest I was surprised to find out about those issues well after I saw the movie. When I was watching it I didn’t get a sense that the movie was jumbled the way you normally do when producers or a distributor get involved in the creative process. The movie held its cohesion pretty well and the build up to an explosive climax was right on the money. I found it to be a truly effective horror film that while not quite as good as Hereditary was right up there in the same tax bracket.

REASONS TO GO: The suspense builds slowly but the ending is intense. Haunted house films are particularly well-done these days; this one is among the best. The scares are unrelenting. There is some good real-world content as well.
REASONS TO STAY: Becca is a little bit too cliché the sensitive little girl.
FAMILY VALUES: There is some profanity, a little bit of suggestive content, some terror and child peril and some disturbing horrific images.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: The film was significantly altered during post-production; even the titled was changed from Breathing.
CRITICAL MASS: As of 7/30/18: Rotten Tomatoes: 62% positive reviews: Metacritic: 46/100.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: The Babadook
FINAL RATING: 9/10
NEXT:
Larger Than Life: The Kevyn Aucoin Story

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Pick of the Litter – July 2018


BLOCKBUSTER OF THE MONTH

Ant-Man and the Wasp

(Disney/Marvel) Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Michael Douglas, Michelle Pfeiffer. Earth’s mightiest (and tiniest) hero returns to face a new nemesis, take on a partner, and go to the quantum realm to rescue Janet Van Dyne, the original Wasp whose mantle has been taken up by her daughter in the original’s absence. The movie is set before the events of Avengers: Infinity War but as with the upcoming Captain Marvel what happens in this film will have a massive effect on the upcoming untitled sequel. July 6

INDEPENDENT PICKS

Under the Tree

(Magnolia) Steinϸór Hróar Steinϸórsson, Edda Björvinsdóttir, SigurƋur Sigurjónsson, ϸorsteinn Bachmann. Two neighbors live in an idyllic Icelandic suburb. The cracks in the veneer begin to show when one complains that their neighbor’s tree is hanging over their sundeck. Things just escalate from there in this Dramedy reminiscent of The ‘Burbs. July 6

Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot

(Amazon) Joaquin Phoenix, Jonah Hill, Rooney Mara, Jack Black. Gus van Sant directs this Sundance hit featuring the true story of cartoonist John Callahan who was paralyzed in a car accident. Getting his life back together after the injury will be one thing but a far greater challenge will be getting sober. July 13

Shock and Awe

(Vertical) James Marsden, Woody Harrelson, Tommy Lee Jones, Milla Jovovich. George W. Bush made the startling claim that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, leading to our invasion of Iraq. More than 15 years later, we’re still there despite the fact that no WMDs were ever found. This movie chronicles the reporters who looked to see through the official story to discover the truth about our war in Iraq. An all-star cast highlights the latest film by Rob Reiner, who also stars. July 13

Generation Wealth

(Amazon) Jacqueline Siegel, Florian Homm Tiffany Masters, Robert Strauser. The United States has seen a drastic shift in values over the past 20 years. The acquisition of wealth has become an obsession to the point of toxicity. How did this change come about and what does it mean for our society? This chilling documentary is brought to us by the filmmakers behind The Queen of Versailles. July 20

Our House

(IFC Midnight) Nicola Peltz, Thomas Mann, Percy Hynes White, Xavier de Guzman. A young genius, attempting to create a means of sending electricity without wires but instead accidentally invents a device that amplifies paranormal energy in his house. At first he hopes to bring back the spirits of loved ones who have passed on but it soon appears that he has unleashed something far worse than he could have ever imagined.. July 27

Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood

(Greenwich)  Scotty Bowers, Peter Bart, Stephen Fry, William Mann. In the Golden Age of Hollywood, being outed as gay was a career killer. It was not unusual for gay and lesbian stars to lead a double life. The only degree of normalcy came from Scotty Bowers, a World War II veteran who provided men and women for gay and lesbian stars to have relationships with. This highly unusual documentary played this year’s Florida Film Festival. July 27