Boy was I excited to see this one. Horror films are the greatest genre when done right, and this film has been praised almost across the board from critics. The trailer was incredibly enticing, and I entered the cinema anxiously, worrying about how much the film would scare me. How disappointed was I?
Toni Collette stars as Annie, a miniatures artist, whose mother has just passed away. Her husband and two children (one a young teenager, one an old teenager) are dealing with the death in their own ways, however in their mourning something more sinister appears to be going on.
This is a classic case of great form not equating to a great film. On a technical level this film is outstanding, with perfect cinematography, tight writing, and high class performances. However the film struggles to find a hook or a point of interest by the time it’s done. And this was properly disappointing because I got about two thirds of the way through and was thinking: this is good, but this is it isn’t it – nothing more is coming. There was no ‘grab you by the throat’ plot point, and ultimately the film lacked meaning.
Focusing on the positives though, it is an expertly crafted couple of hours. The film is beautifully shot, with Wes Anderson esque framing, and low key natural lighting. It parallels stylistically between Annie’s miniature models and reality well, and the opening shot (an example of this) is sublime. The acting is top draw – Collette is brutally engaging as a very emotive and often deranged mother. There is a moment where she lists all the crazy things that have happened in her family, and is so captivating because of her delivery. Milly Shapiro and Alex Wolff are brilliant as the children; Wolff in particular is starting to impress me with his range of teenage sadness (Patriots Day). I was also a fan of the quieter father role, played by Gabriel Byrne as he effectively becomes the only hero of the film. These actors in the drama are what the film gets right, over the horror stuff.
However not that all of the horror stuff doesn’t work. In fact a lot of it is unnerving, and spooky. One scene involving a séance was the only real scene that got me on edge, but overall the film made me uncomfortable (in a good way) throughout. It was a little lacklustre at times that’s all, and even though the themes of the film work, (mental health issues passed down through a family like a curse), they could have been delivered with more vigour. And they could have unpicked more things that they set up, because without spoiling anything, I got the feeling there is a much more interesting road this film could have gone down. If you’re into slow burn horror movies, you’ll enjoy this, but you might not love it like some critics do.
Is it worth the price of a cinema ticket?