(director: David Bruckner; screenwriters: Ben Collins, Luke Piotrowski; cinematographer: Elisha Christian; editor: David Marks; music: Ben Lovett; cast:  Rebecca Hall (Beth), Sarah Goldberg (Claire), Samantha Buck (Becky), Stacy Martin (Bookseller), Evan Jonigkeit (Owen), Vondie Curtis-Hall (Mel), David Abeles (Gary),  Patrick Klein (Bob); Runtime: 108; MPAA Rating: R; producers:David S. Goyer, Keith Levine, John Zois; Searchlight Pictures/ Anton / Phantom Four Films; 2020)

A strong haunted house film, where ghosts and the occult come into play.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A strong haunted house film, where ghosts and the occult come into play. It’s set in upstate NY, at a secluded lakeside home of a recently widowed teacher, Beth (Rebecca Hall), who is in a tizzy from her husband of 14 years, Owen’s (Evan Jonigkeit), recent unexpected suicide. She’s also left in the dark from the unclear suicide note he left. The mysterious note is so upsetting it causes the depressive Beth to have dark dreams over its strange content.

Director David Bruckner
(“The Ritual”/”The Signal”) and writers Ben Collins and Luke Piotrowski provide the needed jump scares for this supernatural thriller about a damsel in distress living in a haunted new house.

Left alone in the house that her former architect husband built for her, she’s now frightened hearing strange voices and believing she sees ghosts and feeling that maybe her husband isn’t really dead (even though she saw his dead body in the boat, in the middle of the lake, where he shot himself).

Her friends, like her only lakeside neighbor Mel (Vondie Curtis-Hall),  console her and advise her to loosen up, but she can’t as she feels something is wrong. When she checks hubby’s belongings, against her friends’ advise, strange things get revealed and she learns hubby maybe had a secret life and was a follower of the occult. Things increasingly become more sinister, and she begins to go bonkers as the eerie events become harder to bear. Things are slowly building to a weird conclusion in this heady psychological film.

Beth’s close friend, also a teacher, Claire (Sarah Goldberg), is concerned and tries to keep her company as much as possible. But things are deepening as Beth, not an easy person to like, has trouble telling what’s imagined and what’s real: she catches herself sleepwalking at night, hearing the stereo system downstairs suddenly start playing the couple’s favorite song in the middle of the night even though no one turned it on, strange ‘out of the world’ knocks at the door during all hours and finding muddy footsteps leading from the boat dock to the house.

Hall’s convincing performance of being frightened to death, centers the provocative and haunting film with a character who has a lot going on in her head. It’s too bad in its third act reveal it couldn’t have come up with a more convincing reveal than a parallel worlds story that was not convincing. If it did, I think we could be talking about a great horror pic.