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
Running time: 96 minutes