Tuesday, October 4, 2016

31 Days of Halloween 2016: Altar

2014, Nick Willing (Photographing Faeries) -- Netflix

That house. The one with the reputation. That one that the locals make up or relate scary stories about. The one that has a real murder in its history. If you get a job to renovate that house, and you see any hints of weirdness?  Leave. Just leave.

I have always wanted to see someone do a series of shorts where someone ends horror movies early by doing something logical, usually involving getting the hell out of Dodge. Alas, this was not one of them. Disappointment for the family involved, not me, because this was a decently done family drama horror. Funny, how I was talking about the cliche in South Korea and horrors involving family, but this British movie slides into it quite quickly: money issues, husband-wife issues, bitter kids. And what is better at testing an already strained family than a haunted house?

Olivia Williams and Matthew Modine are the troubled couple. She renovates/restores big, old houses for rich people and Modine is a not very successful, moody artist. You can tell of the bat, he is more bitter than supportive, the usual "I am not the provider man I should be" syndrome. The particular creepiness of this house was that the man supposedly murdered his wife and then killed himself; a man who was a known artist and recluse. And he has a weird room in the attic with a creepy, but beautiful, mosaic on the floor. An altar for some unknown ritual?

The murder was over a century ago; what about the years between? Do ghosts just stay quiet, keeping things on the downlow, spooking just enough to keep their reps alive, before they go possessing and wrecking people's lives? The house must have been something before we got to it. Before the ghost with the self-cutting issues haunted the daughter, and before the creepy dead artist comes back to comment on the renos.

The thing about this movie, which is decently shot and paced, appropriately creepy and suspenseful, is that she should have left her creepy husband long before the ghost stuff got out of hand. Modine was just a bad husband long before the dead artist's soul started messing with him. There was one particular scene, after a couple of already unsettling scenes, where she should have packed up the kids and left. But family ties and all. Alas, it is those family ties that dooms them.

P.S. I wonder if they ever recover the car.