Fantasia 2018: OUR HOUSE Review – A Charming Haunted House Story
Starring Kate Moyer, Nicola Peltz, Percy Hynes White, Thomas Mann
Written by Parker Nathan
Directed by Anthony Scott Burns
Ethan (Thomas Mann) is a college student on the verge of completing a revolutionary invention with a device that generates wireless energy. Just as his experiments are coming to fruition, the sudden death of his parents brings Ethan back home to care for his younger brother, Matt (Percy Hynes White), and sister, Becca (Kate Moyer). Ethan resumes his studies at his childhood home, but the device unexpectedly begins to amplify paranormal energy.
Our House establishes an endearing familial relationship. Plus, there just aren’t enough horror movies that explore the sibling dynamic. It’s easy to empathize with the Ethan, Matt, and Becca as they all manage grief in their own ways. As the oldest, Ethan finds himself taking on the role of his parents, shuttling the kids to school and swim practice, all while dealing with the emotional turbulence of death. This turbulence is further complicated when Ethan’s machine conjures up spiritual energy residing in the house. Matt and Becca quickly latch on to the idea that the machine is a way to connect with their deceased parents. But are the unseen inhabitants truly their mom and dad? Or could it be leftover energy from previous residents?
With superb editing and efficient writing, Our House flies by. While the material is nothing groundbreaking or challenging, the film doesn’t dawdle. Never dwelling on a scene longer than necessary, the audience is expected to pick up context quickly and move on. By now, savvy moviegoers are all too familiar with the “rules” of the haunted house movie. Our House’s filmmakers are thankfully aware of this.
The film is most effective when the CG shadowy shapes (aka: ghosts) are not present. Atmospheric cinematography ratchets the tension, with a lighting design that forces your eyes into the corners of every frame, searching for hints at what’s to come. Much of the suspense is built with everyday household objects, such as a manual calendar or toolbox. These ordinary items become masterful tools to reveal the presence of the supernatural, orchestrating some chilling moments reminiscent of Poltergeist. Unfortunately, Our House doesn’t fully capitalize on these moments, as it relies too heavily on the rather uninteresting visual design of the spirits.
There’s an underlying sweetness to Our House that charmed me. It probably has something to do with the stellar performances from the cast. I was particularly impressed by Percy Hynes White and newcomer Kate Moyer. These kids can act. It’s the way in which the siblings wear their faces of grief, sometimes bearing the weight alone and sometimes supporting one another in little ways, that kept me invested in the film’s outcome.
Our House is a beautifully crafted entry into the ghost genre. It doesn’t present us with anything new, but it also doesn’t pretend like it’s doing so. It won’t keep you up at night, but it’s characters are so engaging that you’ll fear for them. Welcome this one into your haunted house rotation.