Director: Pascal Laugier.
Starring: Taylor Hickson, Anastasia Philips, Kevin Power, Rob Archer, Mylene Farmer, Crystal Reed, Emilia Jones, USA. 1h 31m.
Pascals past record, in my opinion is chequered, in his early career he assisted on one of the most perfect films ever made, Le Pacte Des Loups (2001) he broke the mold and may stomachs with the New French Extreme visceral classic, Martyrs (2008) then let me down with the confusing and long winding, No Slender Man tale of the Tall Man (2012), but he’s come back swinging with a perfect blend of all the best psychological and physical horror from his past, with a sublime film that gives the creeps and will rattle a few cages along the way. His approach to this twisting tale is unique in that it plays on a strange story this is presented from different perspectives each slipping in and out of each other seamlessly but the dynamics are hauntingly beautiful and yet covered in as much nostalgic creepiness as the house it’s set in.
The two young sisters at the centre of this film, couldn’t be more different, Beth (Reed/Jones) is a sensitive horror writer, always lost in her thoughts about Lovecraft inspired texts but faints at the sight of blood, her ballsy sister is pretty awesome, hot tempered and ready for a fight but they are sisters, just so different the fiery Vera (Philips/Hickson) is a delight.
A mother and her two daughters inherit a house, the dead relative left them a gorgeous home filled with crazy freaky dolls and automata, but catastrophe strikes on the very night that the family are attempting to unpack their belongings, in the swiftest and most violent manner, if you blink you will miss some brilliant horror action .This troubling blood thirsty encounter doesn’t just ruin their night, this is life altering several times.
The film cuts to the present day, many years after the incident, the family mostly recovered from the night from hell. ?? has moved on with a perfect family, she’s a famous horror writer whose overcome her demons and living the best life by recounting the events of the home invasion, however the family home isn’t quite as perfect, her sister seems to be reliving the trauma night by night, as the ghosts from the past attack her like hellish poltergeists, her night terrors are like a hard fight with all the demons of hell, and her sister and mother watch on helpless. But life isn’t that simple and the movie begins to get more complex, gory and brilliant.
Once the initial plot is laid out the film often blindsides the viewer with some gratuitous violence, mostly on women, but coming from the director of Martyrs I would hope that no one is all that shocked, in fact this is pretty tame compared, maybe Martyrs in a haunted house. The characters are brilliant, not quite like the stereotypical milk fed variety that hollywood likes to throw at us, a French speaking mother and two difficult children isn’t necessarily new but I do wonder about the absence of a father figure, is it possibly suggestion that women are victims without a man in the house? Either way the crazies unleashing the pain are really twisted, and I adore how Laugier allows the audience to work them out by pure observation, there isn’t a long explanation about motives, they just get on with their business and if you can stand to watch it, you can learn a lot. this ambiguity is rare but really essential for edgin the bad guys in a sinister fog and their actions are way more random, but the knife wielding nightmare who drives an ice cream truck is a special little creature indeed, I found the limited persona way more thrilling than the featured hulking mass that likes to play with dolls.
Laugier certainly clawed his way back into my good books with this film, with it’s slow start it builds up layers and layers of pain, torture, hauntings, violence, revenge, death and slaughter and during the course of the film he also managed to lacerate Taylor Hickson face which she successfully sued for.
In closing, it’s a bit of something from every facet in horror and for me it’s a successful blend of unabaonded slasher and horror movie blended in a lavish and unforgettable home.
R – Martyrs (2008), The Secret of Marrowbone (2017), The People Under the Stairs (1991), Deep in the Woods (2015).
L – Haunted Homes, Sisters are Slaying it for themselves, Ice Cream Trucks in Horror.
5s – Pascal Laugier.