(director/writer: Santiago Menghini; screenwriters: Jon Croker, Fernanda Coppel/novel by Adam Nevill; cinematographer: Stephen Murphy; editor: Mark Towns; music: Mark Korven; cast: David Figlioli(Becker), Mark Menchaka (Red), Cristina Rodlo (Ambar), Victoria Alcock (Mary), David Barrera (Beto), Moronke Akinole (Kinsi), Mitchell Mullen (Riles), Claudia Coulter (Moma), Teresa Banham (Sylvia), Alejandro Akara (Carlos), Cosima Stratan (Petra), Ilinca Neacsu (Maria), Joana Borja (Simona); Runtime: 85; MPAA Rating: R; producers; Jonathan Cavendish, Will Tennant: Netflix; 2021)

“At best a routine gothic haunted house tale.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

First-time director, the Montreal-based VFX artist and producer, Santiago Menghini, uses Brit horror novelist Adam Nevill’s 2011 “The Ritual” to fuel this small-budget atmospheric horror tale that builds to a tantalizing but questionable finale. The result is at best a routine gothic haunted house tale, that’s co-written by Menghini, Jon Croker and Fernanda Coppel.

After her mother’s death due to an illness, the impoverished but kindly Ambar (Cristina Rodlo) relocates to Cleveland, Ohio (filmed mostly in Bucharest), to pursue her dreams (hoping to get a college education). The undocumented Mexican immigrant worker gets a factory job in a sweatshop that pays her under the table. She rents a room at a dilapidated boarding house run by the scary landlord Red (Marc Menchaca), who warns her the basement is off-limits. The eerie place seems haunted, as she hears sobbing at night and other strange noises. Why she doesn’t just leave is because of her undesirable financial situation, lack of holding the proper documents and her insecurity.

The surprises come to fruition in the brutally violent third act, which detours from the usual haunted house tales to unload its CGI created monsters on us. The title tips us off what’s to happen, even if what happens is illogical and the execution of the story might be startling but lacks coherence.

If being visually atmospheric is enough for you to be sated, then getting bugged out by seeing how hellish both the real world and the other world can be might also be your oysters. But I felt short-changed by the downbeat tale of illegals and their striving to be legal if they can just get forged documents.

REVIEWED ON 10/5/2021  GRADE: C+