Premiered at Fantasia Film Festival and distributed by IFC Midnight, Our House is a horror flick with sci-fi and drama influences. From what I understood, this is also a re-imagination of sorts of independent science fiction film Ghost From the Machine (2010).
I haven’t seen the latter, so I can’t make a comparison between the original and its “remake”. What I can do is describing how I perceived this Canadian-produced film for you to decide whether to check it out or not.
In Our House, Ethan (Thomas Mann – Amytiville: Awakening, 2017) is a nerdy college student who’s got two siblings (young Becca and teenage Matt) and a stunningly beautiful girlfriend, played by Nicola Peltz: that girl from the atrocious The Last Airbender who, after being Michael Bay-fied in Transformers 4, now looks nothing more than a disposable blond bimbo who’s in movies only for… well, you guess it.
Anyway, back to the movie. Ethan goes with Hannah (Peltz) and a friend (who’s in the movie for one single scene) to activate an electric device they’ve been building in order to supply more green energy… or something like it, I didn’t really get their motivation. Meanwhile, Ethan’s parents get caught in a car accident and, tragically, pass away.
Three months later, Ethan, Matt and Becca are coping with the situation but Ethan, who’s short on money, picks up his project again to see if it can yield him some cash. However, the now activated device seemingly brings back the spirits of loved ones, and unleashes entities far more dangerous.
Despite sounding quite sarcastic, there are aspects I can’t deny I appreciate about Our House, namely the acting, especially by Percy Hynes White, who plays Matt. The young actress who portrays Becca is also decent, definitely less annoying than most child actors! Yet, Hannah is on screen for only a few minutes, which makes her inability to act a bit more tolerable.
Continue reading and check my final grade below…
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Yet, as one might expect from an IFC Midnight film, Our House looks really good. It’s not just the cinematography nor only the locations (the movie was entirely shot around Toronto) that look pleasant, since the camera-work is rather unconventional and really adds something to the overall experience. The score isn’t as obnoxious as in most horror flicks and the lighting – which legendary director Mario Bava claimed to be “what defines 70% of a good horror film” – is spot-on, making certain scenes worth watching purely for how the lights are arranged.
Unfortunately, these are the only good features Our House has to offer. This is definitely a slow-burner, which is something I honestly find refreshing – especially within the horror genre, but as such it needed to be presented in a way that doesn’t make it boring and hard to sit through. And that’s not the case.
First time director Anthony Scott Burns had the ambition of making a quite unconventional haunted house flick, but simply didn’t know how to do it. In fact, the first hour of the film is riddled with uninteresting dialogues and repetitiveness of certain scenes. If you want to make a slow-burner, why don’t you show the three kids grieving over their loss? Why not taking as much time as you can within the picture to display conflict, so that once something bad happens the viewer is emotionally invested? Our House tries to do that but in a wat that only scratches the surface, for example by showing dirty dishes in the sink and Ethan rushing through the house to bring his siblings to school on time. Besides, the movie shows us these few sequences over and over, to the point it becomes tiresome.
Also, Our House is one of the least scary films I’ve seen the whole year. Unlike you might think, I don’t mean ‘scary’ in the typical way (loud noises, frightening faces and jump-scares): this flick is unscary because it lacks any sense of urgency (other than 5 minutes towards the end) and it’s not even able to establish a threatening vibe. Yet, this filmmaking might be fitting certain plots that are original and new, but the story in Our House is very predictable and filled with tiresome story-related tropes – the stereo turns on by itself, a girl facing a wall just to turn around and show something ‘scary’, the youngest child not being scared of demonic entities, opening new dimensions might bring some evil spirits into our world, and so on and so forth.
This flick also feature a rather anticlimactic ending, which really doesn’t work in a slow-burner, a number of establishment shots that don’t add anything to the story, a few obvious red-herrings and, in general, nothing that stands out.
Besides being slow as hell, I’d say that most ‘haunted house’ fans might enjoy Our House, thus don’t let my mostly negative review stop you from check this movie out. There’s plenty of people who liked this one (read this review of the movie by my good friend Vanessa) and you might just be one of them. To me, the movie didn’t work at all, albeit not objectively terrible.
Our House 5/10