Directed by David F. Sandberg
I am mad at myself for skipping this one at the cinemas. I had read about the jump-scares, which don’t do much for me, and I avoided it. My mistake, as this flick had me leaning forward, fists clenched as the tension mounted. There may be some jump scares thrown in here, but unlike many other ‘horror’ films the jump scares for the most part add to the already overwhelming atmosphere this film creates.
The concept is at the same time unique but also familiar; spooky entities in a house, nothing new here. But the title is appropriate as our otherworldly guest can only been seen when there is no light. This simple notion is milked for all it is worth, as there are some deeply unsettling moments, most involving this guest. This predicament relegates her (it?) to almost exclusively shadowed areas, and we only ever see her as a silhouette, which makes it that much more confronting when it appears, then disappears just as fast when the lights are turned on.
It is a neat and simple story, made better by the fact that the mother is dealing with mental health issues. She has custody of her son, but his sister knows what he is going through and does her best to get him out of her mother’s house. Maria Bello as the mother overacts a bit, but mental illness to me is always a creepy subject, and some of the mother’s behaviour here is bat-shit crazy, adding even more to the atmosphere.
The fact that this disturbing behaviour is affecting her young son is another nice layer to the film, and as we meet his sister we learn a lot about the family. It is always nice when a film like this has other issues to deal with, and a fractured family is perfect for this story.
The ambient, unobtrusive soundtrack lurks in the background, as we wait for this creature to appear. Every moment of darkness is filled with tension. Will it appear, or is it waiting, biding its time? The supernatural tones are obvious, but this is a lot more entertaining than something like the god-awful The Conjuring, which is interesting as Mr Wan was involved in the making of both films.
To be honest though, this isn’t an excellent film – sure it has its fair share of creepy scenes, but most of it is material we have seen done before. The acting from the rest of the crew is on point, especially the young child actor Gabriel Bateman. Teresa Palmer is also solid as his older sister and daughter of this increasingly crazy mother, but she also has a tendency to overact, much like her mother in the story.
And then we have that ending. I loved it and didn’t see it coming, but again I’m sure those who like to think ahead during films will probably figure it out. It isn’t absurdly predictable, but those so inclined will probably work out what will happen far before it happens – possibly this film’s biggest flaw. It can get quite predictable. This film also doesn’t approach the tension or dread of Don’t Breathe for example, but it isn’t too far off either. The pity is that this entire concept is exceedingly familiar. Horror film-makers need to take a leaf from The Witch or It Follows. Bring us something new, damnit!!
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