(director/writer: Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala; screenwriter: Sergio Casci; cinematographer: Thimios Bakatakis; editor: Michael Palm; music: Daniel Bensi, Saunder Jurriaans; cast: Riley Keough (Grace), Jaeden Martell (Aidan), Lia McHugh (Mia), Richard Armitage (Richard), Alicia Silverstone (Laura); Runtime: 108; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Simon Oakes, Aliza James, Aaron Ryder; Neon; 2019-UK/Canada/USA)
“Falters somewhat, stuck in its own snowstorm.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
This creepy horror pic is set in a remote mountain cabin. It’s the English-language debut for the talented Austrian directing team of Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala (“Goodnight Mommy”). They write the ambitious screenplay along with Sergio Casci, emphasizing the travails of parenthood and the irreconcilable differences between a stepmom and the children. The promising film unfortunately loses its psychological edge and ends on a predictable note. The stepmom and the children try to survive a long two nights together of hearing disembodied voices, things mysteriously disappearing, a generator breaking down without cause during a power outage and having nightmares that seem real.
The vulnerable mother Laura (Alicia Silverstone) commits suicide when her estranged journalist husband Richard (Richard Armitage) demands an immediate divorce to marry the much younger Grace (Riley Keough, Elvis’s eldest granddaughter). Richard wrote an article about her when she was 12 and she became the sole survivor of a mass suicide of a Christian cult.
The kids, the teenager named Aidan (Jaeden Martell) and his ten-year-old sister Mia (Lia McHugh), don’t like it that dad is marrying someone they perceive as a crazy lady on meds. Richard thinks if he gives the kids and Grace a chance to bond together they will become a family. During an approaching winter snowstorm, just prior to Christmas, when dad goes on a work assignment, the three shelter down at the isolated mountain lodge.
What the filmmakers do good is set an eerie atmosphere and provide plenty of shocks. Otherwise the plot has too many contrivances and falters somewhat, stuck in its own snowstorm.
Though on the positive side, the fragile Keough shines in a soulful performance of trying to get herself together after being fooled by religious hypocrisy and dealing with her ongoing persecution complex.
REVIEWED ON 2/12/2020 GRADE: B