This horror movie has been gaining kudos for eschewing many of the staples of the genre – jump scares, excessive gore, torture, CGI, etc. And it is to be applauded for taking a much more character based approach to horror. I admire trying to do something different with the genre, and I always prefer horrors that invest in characters, but ultimately it doesn’t quite deliver.
The family dynamics centre around Toni Collette’s Annie deal with the death of her domineering mother while working on a miniatures art exhibition, and her relationship with her quirky daughter Charlie and stoner son Peter, with supportive husband Gabriel Byrne always on hand. At times it feels more like an extended family drama – like Manchester by the Sea sprinkled with the Exorcist. It is slow at times, with major events occurring every 30 minutes or so. It contains one scene that made me declare aloud in the cinema “Holy fuckshit!”. But then, I was the only one in there during the current heat wave. It also has an ominous, dread inducing soundtrack, not unlike that used to such effect in February. But whereas in that (underrated) film the soundtrack drove the narrative onwards, here it seems intrusive.
It most closely resembles the Witch, but that had oppressive New England, an aesthetic of brown and a talking goat to commend it. Collette’s performance as the unravelling mother is enthralling, but I didn’t feel any peril for the main characters and confess to being bored a lot of the time.