(director/writer: Lee Cronin; screenwriter: Sam Shields; cinematographer: Tom Comerford; editor: Colin Campbell; music: Stephen McKeon; cast: Seana Kerslake (Sarah O’Neill), James Cosmo (Des Brady), Kati Outinen (Noreen Brady), Simone Kirby (Louise Caul), Steve Wall (Rob Caul), James Quinn Markey (Chris O’Neill); Runtime: 90; MPAA Rating: R; producers: John Keville, Conor Barry; A24; 2019-Ireland/Belgium/Finland)

“Well-crafted thriller on parental angst.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

First-time feature director Lee Cronin (“Ghost Train,” a short), who has done previous themed horror shorts, does a fine job here with this well-crafted thriller on parental angst. It’s an Ireland-Belgium-Finland co-production, released first on DIRECTV in February and then will be released in cinemas in March.The troubled single mom Sarah O’Neill (Seana Kerslake), fleeing an abusive relationship, is building a new life by relocating to a backwater Irish town with her sensitive grade school adolescent son Chris (James Quinn Markey). She purchases a dilapidated farmhouse outside of a simple old village. After moving in there’s an eerie confrontation on the road with the crazed crone Noreen Brady (Kati Outinen), called by the locals Walkie Talkie because she roams around town incoherently speaking to herself. Returning home after a trip to the local amusement park, the crone leaves mom with a chilly feeling by shouting something seemingly nonsensical about how Chris is “not him!” The crone laments that years before she lost her son to a legendary creature, called a Changeling in Irish culture. They are subterranean beings known to steal children and take their form. Chris suddenly shows an abnormal fear of spiders and no appetite, and one night walks out alone in the forest to stand by a large sink hole. Worried about Chris’ strange behavior, mom talks things over with her employer/friend Louise (Simone Kirby), who reassures the guilt-stricken mom it’s normal for kids to go through such anxiety periods. In ensuing scenes it’s hinted at that mom is either going bonkers from stress and just imagining things or suffering from the after-effects of her new medication or that there’s something about the massive sink hole that has altered her son’s behavior or even the possibility he may not be her son but an impostor. By the final act we have absorbed the mysterious stories told by the locals from the past about Changelings, and the horror pic falls into line as another creature film that’s more a mood piece than a fright film. This development dampens the outcome. Though for the most part it’s effective for its intense psychological haunting mood it sets, the brilliant wounded soulful performance by Kerslake and Cronin’s visual creativity through cinematographer Tom Comerford. But the thriller, with major plot holes in logic, seems to be stuck as more unnerving as an allegorical tale than a fully realized horror pic.

REVIEWED ON 2/1/2019 GRADE: B   https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/