First time Aussie director Natalie Erika James has set about trying to do something unwonted with the horror genre, examining the age-related onset of a consuming loss of mental acuity and balanced personality in terms of a haunting.
I started to develop reservations as I read the synopsis and never really shook them during viewing. The movie has to juggle three elements: the trappings of the genre, a situation in the county outside Melbourne that is almost excessively metaphorical and the very non-supernatural spectre of incipient dementia within a multi-generational family unit.
During the first half, as the tension builds and the aforementioned elements are blended, the experience is suitably creepy and captivating, but ultimately the mixture doesn't seem to hold together.
There’s a lot left unsaid in this scenario such as the absence of male partners, the fact that mother and daughter appear to be only-children, and while some of this has a positive dramatic impact, overall the effect is a bit swiss-cheesey.
I suppose part of the issue here is that the film is better directed (and performed) than it is written. It ventures into extremely interesting territory only to leave one with a sense of having been led into a dead end. And there are times when it feels like a drama of people running around shouting ‘Mum’ a lot.
It does however pass the Bechdel test with flying colours.
Oddly enough, this is the second haunted house movie we’ve watched during lockdown where the internal dimensions of the home prove somewhat unreliable.
I’m starting to think that there’s a subset of developing chill features that should be equipped with a dialogue box that pops up three quarters of the way through warning viewers that they might not find the finale entirely to their satisfaction and providing a little button to discreetly bring proceedings to a premature conclusion.
There are horror movie third acts that essentially ruin the whole experience. This isn't one of them, but James had left herself with nowhere else to go other than off the ranch.