Too long, too slow, but I appreciate a last-minute swing for the fences.
It’s the 1980s and Catherine Claire (Amanda Seyfried) moves to a large farmhouse with her husband George (James Norton) and daughter Franny (Ana Sophia Heger). She quickly discovers that there are a number of odd things about the house, including a Bible indicating the deaths of the previous owners, weird sounds and smells, and Franny reacting to a strange presence. George, whose new job at a local college prompted the move, starts to have issues with the department head, Floyd (F. Murray Abraham), and begins an affair with a student named Willis (Natalia Dyer). Catherine befriends one of George’s colleagues, Justine (Rhea Seehorn), and hires two locals, brothers Eddie and Cole (Alex Neustaedter and Jack Gore), to work on the property. It turns out Eddie and Cole’s father murdered their mother in the house. As George becomes progressively more erratic, Catherine becomes more suspicious of his behavior.
A family moves into a spooky house and the father slowly becomes more erratic as crazier and more blatantly supernatural things occur. If that sounds familiar, it’s because The Amityville Horror popularized the formula in the 70s and there are at least a dozen rip-offs of it every year since. This movie started off pretty well by setting the strange atmosphere of the house, but then it decided to just keep adding more subplots without really exploring the main elements deeply. Part of the key to suspense is the unknown and this film’s inability to allow us to just sit with the ambiguity for longer than 10 seconds hurt it immensely. It just makes it feel slow and predictable.
The performances were all solid as you would probably expect from the cast list. Amanda Seyfried is excellent as Catherine, someone whose faith in the supernatural conflicts directly with her husband. Of course, George’s insistence that nothing strange is happening is reminiscent of every father from every version of this story. Norton does a good job of keeping it ambiguous whether the house is making George get more and more erratic or if he’s just a bad person to begin with. F. Murray Abraham and Natalia Dyer are both excellent in helping keep their respective subplots interesting, but they don’t quite get enough time onscreen.
Overall, the movie’s just not worthwhile, although I will say that the ending, as explained below, does have a heck of a twist.
At the end of the movie, Catherine, having discovered that her husband is cheating on her and that he may have murdered his cousin. To cover up his affair with Willis, George attempts to kill Justine and puts her in a coma. He then finds out that Catherine is planning on taking Franny and running away, but then reveals he drugged her. He then kills her with an axe and sets up an alibi which, while the police don’t believe it, appears to work. However, Catherine’s soul merges with Ella, the woman who had previously been murdered in the house, and together they enter Justine’s body and wake her from her coma, allowing her to testify against George. George then takes a boat to flee, the same boat he murdered his cousin on, and a portal opens taking him presumably to hell.
Like I said, that’s a bold way to end the movie. Not only does the main character get outsmarted and brutally murdered, but then it turns out that the power of the two wronged women allow them to get revenge together by awakening Justine.
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