Tuesday, January 10, 2017

I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House

I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House (2016)

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A live-in nurse (Ruth Wilson) goes to live-in the house of a decrepit, retired author (Paula Prentiss), whose main claim to fame was writing a novel about her conversations with the ghost of a girl who was murdered in the house many years ago (Lucy Boynton). The nurse slowly begins to realize that the novel might not actually be a novel and that there may be a ghost in the house.

So, apart from having a title like a fucking Pearl Jam song, this is a fairly solid idea for a haunted house movie. It's somewhat suspenseful, relying on a spooky atmosphere rather than blood and gore and things jumping out of cellars. It also builds suspense by announcing in the first ten minutes that the main character is 28 but will not turn 29, so we know right away that some shit it gonna go down. It definitely would have worked as a novel, as it had a very literary feel to it.

Unfortunately, nothing really happens for most of the movie. It tries to build suspense but the most intense thing that happens in the first hour is when the main character discovers some potentially harmful mold growing on the wall and has to argue with Bob Balaban about getting insurance to fix it. It starts to get creepy in the last twenty minutes and when we finally get to see the ghost it's pretty scary, but the rest of the movie is a painfully slow drag.

There's as much talking as one would expect of a movie called I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House, with extensive, poorly written narration which is unnecessarily verbose and totally out of keeping with the vapid narrator.

The narration is not only obnoxious and meandering, it's also poorly utilized. There's a five minute scene of the main character talking to somebody on the telephone, explaining her backstory (something about jilted love which never, ever comes up again I might add) and highlighting Ruth Wilson's awful acting, which could have been done with narration.

It's shot "artfully", that is, there are a bunch of really weird angles and long shots of nothing, which comes off as annoying rather than artistic. It also makes the movie seem even more boring if possible.

And lets be honest, ghost movies are the least interesting of horror sub-genres. Other monsters and entities are inherently scary. Serial killers and slashers capture our attention by making us ponder how it is possible for a person to commit unspeakable acts of violence towards another person. Zombies and vampires are scary because they are relentless predators that will eat you to death. Giant animals terrify us because god damnit a spider should not be that fucking big.

Ghosts? Ghosts are just the disembodied remnants of often harmless dead people. There is nothing scary about that. Haunted house movies are even less scary because there is often not a very good reason why the person can't just leave the house. It takes a masterful hand to make them into something that we should find threatening. They have to do something to scare us, they can't just be there hanging around. Don't get me wrong, I am inexplicably terrified of ghosts - I worry about ghosts in my car, I worry about ghosts in my windows, I worry about ghosts in my damn toilet - but not because ghosts are actually scary. It's because well executed films and novels instilled in me a fear that ghosts will do something terrible to me.

This is not such a movie. The ghost really doesn't do anything except yank a phone out of the girls hand, and walk around. Yeah, she's got her feet on backwards and that's pretty creepy but, like, it's not that scary. And how does she kill the main character? By just appearing and scaring her to death. Seriously. What the fuck was that about? I mean, yeah, the character explains that she is easily scared but like at least give her a heart condition or something for foreshadowing. Don't have her just drop dead because she's scared. Fuck sakes.

I wouldn't recommend this movie to anybody except die hard direct-to-netflix haunted house fans, or maybe people doing an exhaustively researched project on Anthony Perkins.

Written and Directed by: Osgood Perkins.  Starring: Ruth Wilson, Paula Prentiss, Lucy Boynton, Bob Balaban.

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