Directed by Dan Walton and Dan Zachary, Starring: Darren Matheson, Lynn Csontos, Eliza Faria. Horror, Canada, 2015, 81mins, Cert 18.
Released in the UK on DVD on 8th August by Left Films.
A family move into an abandoned orphanage. (That’s all you really need to know isn’t it?) Especially when the youngest daughter looks up at the window and immediately asks: “Who was the lady that was upstairs?” Or that other tell-tale (or tail) sign when the family’s lovable fluffy sheepdog starts barking for No Apparent Reason, and its eyes are positively bulging with fear. A cursory glance on the internet would surely have provided some clues as to why this abandoned orphanage isn’t so much a ‘doer-upper’ but more of a ‘doer-you-in’. (Maybe the 2004 children’s birthday party atrocity at the Carrington Orphanage might have raised some doubts?)
But where would we be without creative ignorance? So the family move in to the house that: “looks like where vampires live” according to little Alyssa (Eliza Faria – think Danielle Harris in HALOWEEN 4). Originally titled AMERICAN CONJURING, (presumably James Wan wasn’t too thrilled by that), what we get served up are generous dollops of THE AMITYVILLE HORROR, seasoned with a smidgeon of torture porn and accompanied by a risible ghostly apparition that’s a cross between ‘Meg Muckelbones’ from LEGEND and ‘Zelda’ from Gerry Anderson’s ’TERRAHAWKS’. The two directing Dan’s (Walton and Zachary) really should have kept ‘Zelda’ – sorry, the ghost of Hesta Corbett, in the shadows (or preferably locked away in a cupboard). Less would, in this case, have been considerably more.
The opening haunting shenanigans zip along at a fair pace; yes they’re for the most part groan-inducingly clichéd: but the Double D’s are nothing if not business like in moving on to the next well-used trope. (Viewing tip: prepare a checklist in advance so you can tick each cliché off when they appear on screen). Rocking chair rocking on its own (tick!), child’s creepy laughter and a sudden bouncing ball (tick!), a self-moving pram (tick!), youngest child suddenly drawing horrific pictures (tick) etc, etc. Oh, and dad’s all of a sudden vigorously chopping wood in the backyard with a shiny axe...
Taking the opposite approach to the James Wan School of typically well-crafted jump-scare, BIND then resorts to upping the on screen gore. The film features several scenes of child violence which certainly took me by surprise, and whilst it’s obvious the dog stood about as much chance of surviving as a nubile counsellor at Camp Crystal Lake, I was still somewhat taken aback by the sheer brutality meted out to the poor mutt. (In comparison, Muffin got off lightly in FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2). Mind you, most of the supporting grown-up’s end up being dispatched in equally brutal fashion – and one torturous scene involving the multiple threats of a blowtorch, a mallet and a drill should act as a cautionary warning to any unscrupulous estate agents!
And then, at around the 75 minute mark, the rug is well and truly pulled from under the viewer’s feet and we’re presented with a WTF moment. (At first I thought the screener had jumped back to an earlier chapter by mistake). But no, it’s intentional on the part of the filmmakers who just couldn’t resist conjuring (pun intended) up one final whopping cliché before delivering a head-scratching denouement which left me cold (not with fear – with incredulity).
Extras: Director’s commentary, behind the scenes, alternative scene, trailers.
**(out of 5*)