Let’s check in on our parents.

Bryan Bertino is one of those directors that doesn’t get as much attention as he should. His interesting The Strangers, and the excellent The Monster should make him a household name for horror (not to mention his producer creds), but he seems to slip a bit under the radar for a lot of folks (myself included). Here, we have a return to a family besieged by evil, but this time it isn’t lunatics in masks, but rather something formless and ancient.

Siblings Louise (Marin Ireland) and Michael (Michael Abbot Jr.) come back to their family farm as their father (Michael Zagst) is on his deathbed and their mother (Julie Oliver-Touchstone) has run herself haggard taking care of the farm. The mother is hostile towards the siblings when they arrive, speaking cryptically and coldly about her not wanting them there. Something seems amiss on the old family farm.

In many horror films, the writers take a shortcut by not having the characters be honest with each other. Here, years of guilt, grief, and likely trauma keep things quiet. As the story unfolds, we end up with more questions than answers, and like our beleaguered heroes, we can’t seem to put the pieces together fast enough. However, it is a captivating ride.

There is an obvious family history that is not fully disclosed within the story. We are left to figure things out by the clues that we find. We have a natural, or perhaps real, unfolding of information. The history of these people doesn’t follow what we could consider narrative logic, but real life rarely does. So much of the film for me rang of a family with dark secrets. Even without the supernatural elements, I wanted to watch these characters.

The evil that haunts the family is random, but not senseless. Why it chose this particular group to torment doesn’t matter because what difference would that make? The end result is the same even if more information is given.

By keeping things loose, the film is able to offer up a series of creepy moments. Where the horror elements truly shine is the never-ending sense of dread that permeates through nearly every scene. Overall, this one simply hits the nail on the head.

Where Bertino is always great is the small details. The house feels like a ranch house. The characters feel like ranchers. Great set designs, writing, cinematography, and directing make this film feel like it exists within its own universe. I applaud everyone on the cast and crew. Even the music almost always works (which I am notoriously picky about).

I wanted a bit more of a resolution at the end. An abrupt ending leaves too many questions unanswered. My only gripes with the movie come in the last two or three minutes, which I can’t discuss here. The ending isn’t bad, but it isn’t a slam dunk like the rest of the movie.

This is a horror fans horror film. One of the most interesting straight up horror films of the year. It is a shame this one didn’t get a flashy premier. Let’s hope Bertino keeps cooking up these devilishly smart horror films in the meantime.

One of the best of the year. Watch it now.

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