Dysfunctional families have been at the centre of sitcoms, dramedies, murder mysteries and thrillers. Where secret is concerned, a murder is sure to come before or after the entrance of an outsider.

Based on the novel of the same name by Shirley Jackson, the story is about the Blackwood family who stay isolated in their large house on the edge of town. Merricat, who narrates, lives there with her older sister Constance and wheelchair bound Uncle Julian. All are still haunted by a suspicious family tragedy that caused the towns people to despise the wealthy family on the hill, when long lost cousin Charles arrives, shaking things up and making changes. 

The characters that inhabit the story (and house) are limited, making it difficult at first to understand what the story is. Past events are constantly mentioned, especially as Uncle Julian has rather lost his mind and sometime refers to present as the past. Merricat and Constance are close and the fact that she was accused of murdering the girls’ parents, does not deter her sister. Plus Uncle Julian is writing down the events surrounding the murders and trial into a memoir, it’s no wonder cousin Charles is slightly bemused when he first arrives to the literal mad house.

Where there’s an old mansion, there’s a family secret and in the Blackwood’s case, there are many but we, the audience aren’t told anything, except what was suspected the moment you see all the jars Merricat has buried, part of her spells that keep getting broken. This lack of satisfying resolution isn’t a hinderance on the rest of the story which plays out like a characters stand off, mostly between Charles and Merricat, but it is frustrating not knowing what came before the start of the film. Setting a story years after a murder trial and an acquittal is unusual, not all together engaging but thankfully the performances are enough to draw you in and watch patiently as a family descends further into chaos. 

Dir: Stacie Passon

Prd: Jared Ian Goldman, Robert Mitas, Kieran Corrigan

Scr: Mark Kruger

Cast: Taissa Farmiga, Alexandra Daddario, Crispin Glover, Sebastian Stan

DoP: Piers McGrail

Music: Andrew Hewitt

Country: USA, Ireland

Year: 2018

Running time: 96 minutes

By KatieHogan

Katie has been writing about film for 10 years and joined the FH team back in 2016. Having been brought up on the classics from Empire Strikes Back to Marx Brothers’ A Night at the Opera, Katie has been obsessed with film since she was young and turned to writing about film after she immersed herself in her 6,000 word essay about the Coen Brothers.

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