Yes, it has taken me many months to check this one out finally. This was one of those cases where the film becomes a huge pop culture phenomenon. There was so much hype and praise around this film (particularly Toni Colette’s performance) which I could not escape.
What did I think? All hype, no substance? Actual nail-biting terror and chills?
So I think I had been largely expecting a very emotional and psychologically affecting horror experience with this film. There have been a few along those lines over the last few years and this seem to fit in along with them from what I had heard. I really don’t think I had seen much of the film, probably only brief trailers but many months ago to the point where I did not remember much at all.
The film is a slow moving ride for sure. A family mourning the loss of a grandparent and trying to move on with their lives. For a good while other than one very brief spooky moment, it seems much like a sad television drama about loss. It changes a little when we see the teenage son go along to a house party, forced to take along his younger sister-a quite strange girl. While getting stoned she comes to him feeling not too good, not breathing well. He rushes her into his car, drives them out to the main road. She continues to shuffle, panic uncomfortably in the backseats. He swerves on seeing an animal on the road. The sister has her head out of the car window to get air…horrible, shocking occurrence. This event really punched me in the gut. Not some monster attack, or masked serial killer, no just a very tragic road accident. This really hits the family. The parents and the teenage son all react in their individual protracted emotional ways. Toni Collette soon takes part in a casual séance with a friend and this changes her completely.
From this point this film moves along more quickly, and becomes something more like familiar classic supernatural ghost/occult horror movies. It takes a while and parts of it feels much like the eerie moments of David Lynch films like Lost Highway, Blue Velvet-the long chilling quiet before a sudden graphic violent event hits us. These scenes do work very well as we have spend much time getting to know the individual family members, watching them cope with the loss of the grandparent and young sister and other underlying pent up emotions between them. The film eventually comes close to films such as Poltergeist, Rosemary’s Baby, The Exorcist as the sinister occult forces take hold of Toni Colette when she begins to understand what is happening to the family.
The last ten or twenty minutes move along very fast, a whole parade of extremely dramatic and bloody events hitting us, the evil escalating within the cursed family home before a very elaborate ominous ending.
The films seems to have eventually divided some horror fans-being to slow and ‘boring’ to some, and to others one of the best horror films in years. The ending also seems to have rattled or irritated some viewers-too surreal or hokey? Too camp or Hammer horror while earlier the film had a balance of surprise sudden extreme terror and tragedy.
It could be that the film could have had some better editing all through, as it possibly does seem like two kinds of horror films cut together halfway through. While I am a fan of Hammer horror movies, the occult in horror, and more subtle psychological modern horror as well perhaps it could have chosen to be more one than both in the one film. this said, I have only watched it once, and in the last half hour I had many thoughts and feelings as the film reached its climax. It could be that it really is best the way it has been directed and editing all the way through. It certainly is a very affecting, emotionally intense modern horror and a real experience. I will have to watch it again soon I feel, even though I know that will have to be in the right state of mind for it.
James Parsons is a horror/scifi author- his debut horror novel Northern Souls is available now from all good bookshops in paperback/ebook. His two SF novels Orbital Kin & Minerva Century are also available now.