The month of January has not been too kind to yours truly. Much like The Forest, this film continues the tradition of a popular television actor testing the waters of film to see if they can extend their dramatic reach. Unfortunately, much like Natalie Dormer, we have Lauren Cohan (Maggie on The Walking Dead) wasting her potential with this wash-out of a horror film. It shouldn’t surprise anyone either. After all, this film is under the “masterful” direction of the same guy who directed the anti-classics Stay Alive and The Devil Inside. The film is not original, it’s not scary and it’s not particularly well-written. Another typical January release.
The premise is as follows: a young woman (Cohan) travels to a beautiful house in England to take care of the place for a couple of months and look after an elderly couple’s young boy, Brahms. The only problem is that this boy happens to be a doll and the couple treat him just as they would an actual child. Cohan is given specific rules to follow and of course, she thinks it to be ridiculous and just hangs out at the home while throwing the doll to the wayside. She begins to see weird shit in the house while also falling for a handsome young delivery driver and then horror ensues, I guess.
Right off the bat I will say that Lauren Cohan fares much better in this film than Dormer did in The Forest. Cohan is likeable and believable even if the script has her doing nonsensical things like investigating an attic when it magically opens or suddenly buying into everything when the doll moves an inch. Yes, she doesn’t buy into anything when the doll seemingly causes attics to open or murderous messages but when it moves an inch that’s when her mind suddenly changes. The rest of the actors don’t stand out at all. Rupert Evans is fairly bland as the love interest. He isn’t given anything interesting to do and does nothing with his role. The elderly couple, played by Jim Norton and Diana Hardcastle, show flashes of potential but it doesn’t really go anywhere as they are barely on-screen after the first 15 minutes or so.
The horror aspect of the film is one of it’s biggest problems: it’s just not scary. The tension isn’t there so instead the movie goes after cheap jump scares (see my review on The Forest to see how much I enjoy THAT film device) and ridiculous situations. The film is basically the same thing for the first hour until a late revelation in the film but it really accomplishes nothing and only serves to irritate. After having given it some thought, the ending and the “twist” is actually not a bad idea in theory but it is executed in such a lazy manner and actually made me laugh rather than be afraid, which I’m 99% sure was NOT their intention.
The pacing of the film is all over the place. The first 40-50 minutes are incredibly slow and dull until a new character is hastily introduced into the plot to push everything forward. This also felt lazy. The last portion of the film includes the “twist” and fails to really entertain or excite. It’s a shame because this story had potential and with a better writer and director behind the scenes, I really feel like this could’ve been a solid horror film.
NOTE: There is one scene where Cohan’s character remarks that 1991 was “20 years ago.” Unless this is a period piece taking place in 2011 (I doubt it), that means that the movie was filmed 5-6 years ago, sat on the shelf, and is just being released now. That is always a good sign…
* (Brutal; the worst rating)
** (Some elements keep it from being awful but still not very good)
*** (Completely watchable; a rental as old-timers might say)
**** (Great film with a few things here and there keeping it from being perfect)
***** (Flawless; a true achievement)