House of Last Things (2012)
Directed by Michael Bartlett
House of Last Things is a supernatural thriller set in Portland, Oregon. It drops the viewer in the middle of a home wrought with anguish over an initially unexplained tragedy. As the film rolls on, we begin to piece together just what happened to cause such pain until eventually writer/director Michael Bartlett unveils the true horrific events.
Although the film is very nicely shot, it is initially tough to embrace. However, as you get deeper into the story and the characters develop further, you find yourself drawn into House of Last Things. We meet Sarah and Alan Dunne (Dalton and Schulman), a successful couple living in the suburbs. Sarah is obviously still troubled over an event that sent her to some type of a mental institution for an undisclosed amount of time. Alan insists they get away to Italy to try to rebuild their marriage and their lives. A housesitter comes, and shortly after the couple leave, the sitter's mentally handicapped brother and aggressive, mean-spirited, bad-intentioned boyfriend arrive. And so the story begins.
House of Last Things does not deliver much in the way of big frights, instead choosing to let the tension build. Things begin to get quite strange at the Dunne home after the couple leave, and unexplainable occurrences ramp up the suspense.
The film is well cast, especially the role of the asshole boyfriend, Jesse. Played by Blake Berris, the part is challenging as Jesse goes through some interesting transformations throughout the film, requiring an extremely versatile player. Berris makes his character easy to dislike when it's required by the story. Additionally Diane Dalton as the grieving Sarah Dunne delivers a powerful performance. She begins as an emotional wreck and spirals even further downward as secrets are revealed.
House of Last Things uses lots of symbolism and at a few points does become a bit hard to follow. Instead of being a traditional haunting tale, it's an ambitious take on a ghost story which at times works very well and at others becomes muddy. However, overall it's a film that will not only entertain you while watching but also linger after the viewing as some of the more emotional scenes are quite powerful.
House of Last Things is a quality effort. The lack of clarity it displays in certain areas does detract from the viewing experience at times, but its powerful and emotional scenes go a long way toward making up for some of the ambiguity. By the time the entire truth is revealed, you'll be glad you took the ride.
3 1/2 out of 5