Inspired by True Events at the Most Haunted House in History.
Tonight's movie didn't exactly pass me by on the movie radar, it just wasn't one that I was super interested in. Fast forward to it being out for home video, and a friend mentions that they thought it was pretty fun. I've watched movies with far less exceptional recommendations, so I figured why not? As far as I know, "inspired by" very well could be the word of the day - but let's see how the house that guns built plays out.
I've watched a decent number of horror movies at this point. When something actually happened (or "could" have happened, since there's no legality to enforce the claim when put on movies) it can help add a bit of an edge to things. If it really happened, then there's no "it's all in my imagination" to hop back to. Of course, this can also be a bit of a double edged weapon - if something were to have happened, the sense of immersion can be that much more easily broken by more fantastical elements. If I try to tell you that a man wielding a power drill murdered twelve people back in 1208, you are going to have a hard time taking me seriously regardless of how factual parts of what I tell you are.
Here, I'm not super well versed. I know of the unique surroundings to the story - that of a widowed Winchester building crazy rooms and creating a giant maze of construction to trap and confuse the spirits she believe haunted her due to her Husbands hand in the business. Although I know that much, and the fact that the mansion is supposedly still super haunted to this day, I can not tell you if an assessor went to check on her mental status, if ghosts actually started popping out of the woodwork and tried to kill everyone there, or if all of the characters sans Mama Winchester were there. What I can say is that it handled most of the elements pretty well close to the chest before the climax, which lent to it a good feeling of credibility.
I can also remark how the story feels like it is more about the Doctor than it is about Winchester or her house. Maybe it's because the movie follows the Doc, making him feel like the main character - or even his integral nature to plot in a handful of moments. It's almost a strange option - but admittedly I also kind of enjoyed the fact that the movie subverted my one main expectation - that of it being specifically focused on a woman and her spooky house. Now, neither are missing from the movie either, and both need to exist for anything the Doc does to matter - but just in general comparisons they both feel more like the story woven around the Doctor than they do the leads in some fashion.
Both are still set up nicely though. The actors all do a very well job in their rolls, with some of the side-characters being a bit less versed feeling or somewhat one-note as their importance to anything would merit. Lines are delivered well, although if anything one could say a number of them are a little dry. Maybe it's an attempt to emulate or more old-fashioned way of speaking or the likes, and it's not really too much of a detraction from anything, but if I were to point something out that would be it. The kid even does a pretty fine job, granted his part as far as acting is rather limited.
The setting is the other large actor in the mix, and does just as much a performance as the actors. The insides of the house are quite fancy, and easily confusing in it's maze like qualities as we watch and try to grasp the geometry of what room leads where. The lighting is rather on point at all times as well, keeping things dark around the edges to give that spooky feeling, and even at times seemingly throwing in a little level of fog for that specific kind of "glow" around the bulbs. That or perhaps it's just me reading a bit to far into it - either way, the setting does a great job of adding to the atmosphere of being this big old spooky confusing house, and the movie is certainly better off for it.
Effects work is probably more in-depth than I'd care to notice. Most of the ghosts aren't seen in super huge detail unless you opt to pause the screen to get a better gander at them - but for what's on the screen when it is it all works quite well. The less spooky costumes are all laughably old-timey, with big old collars and plenty of suit jackets. It's a bit over-the-top compared to modern standards, but it does have a bit of it's own charm as well at any rate. The spooks, when they happen, are generally brief and more in the form of a well-setup tension jump scare - in which case you know it's coming, but it plays around with it just enough for just long enough that it can manage to catch you off guard with it's precise pounce - and doesn't commonly feature a super-loud sting to elicit a forced jerk-reaction from your eardrums. I can appreciate that - it's not so subtle that everyone misses it, but at least takes a moment to feel like it's not just being every other jump-fiesta on the block.
Overall, this one wasn't bad. It had some interesting moments, and I'm always a fan of the "inspired" series of movies out there. The scares a relatively tame, and the acting is good enough to keep you watching. Towards the end, it can go a little bit overboard with some of it's supernatural elements, and I'm sure some might find it a little odd that the story doesn't directly follow a Winchester. I'd argue that although it's nothing supernatural in entertainment, it's something a person probably wouldn't regret renting, and potentially even enjoy it.