Sunday, 13 November 2016

I AM THE PRETTY THING THAT LIVES IN THE HOUSE

CONTAINS SOME SPOILERS

Exclusivity bothers me. There seems something wrong with a movie being available in only one place and if you don't have access to it - tough. Maybe it's a film you really want to see that's only showing in a cinema over 300 miles away or (as in this instance) streaming only on a subscription service to which you don't subscribe. Sure you could just sign up to Netflix, just as you could get on a coach to the Runcorn Picturehouse, but why should you have to? Isn't the idea of film distribution to, you know, distribute, so that as many people as possible are actually going to be able to see the damned thing? That's the idea, anyway: to get people to join the club because that's the only way to see these films, documentaries, TV shows. Every movie streaming service has stuff you can't get on the others, but (unlike Netflix) you don't have to join them all on a monthly direct debit, and for Google, Amazon, Blinkbox, Curzon and others you can rent individual titles for a reasonable fee as and when you like. It's not for me to question the wisdom of Netflix executives' business strategy, but I wonder whether people are going to ignore it entirely - they'd rather not sign up for yet another service, and if it means missing out on brand new Adam Sandler films and obscure American standups then they'll just live with it - or just seek out the titles on torrent sites.

The annoying thing is that I Am The Pretty Thing That Lives In The House (a handy title for reviewers struggling to reach their word count) is worth seeking out, despite its flaws. It aims for its scares through a low-key atmosphere of suffocating stillness, with long, static takes in which nothing happens (think Paranormal Activity, but without the found footage approach), generally declining the easy popcorn toss in favour of chilly gloom. Despite the simplest back-of-a-fag-packet setup - young nurse takes job looking after elderly horror novelist in old house that might well be haunted - it's effective, creepy and occasionally look-away scary: the best, and possibly the most difficult, kind.

At least for the first half, though it has sadly burdened itself with a voiceover that's the wrong side of waffle. But the gloom is ultimately too thick and, once the apparently nonthreatening ghost has appeared, the film loses a lot of its cold mood that it conjured up early on, and you start to wonder if anyone else ever comes to the house in the eleven months covered by the story, or whether it's an intangible spectre rather than something that can actually move things (like a telephone cord).

I Am The Pretty Thing That Lives In The House is not a movie for fans of Insidious or Friday The 13th: it's for those who want quiet thrills rather than Boo!!! and messy chainsaw attacks. It's a film veering more towards arthouse than mainstream, and maybe for domestic televisual chills instead of a rowdy Friday night multiplex. That's to be applauded, obviously, and even if it doesn't entirely work then it's still worth seeing. Whether it's worth signing up to Netflix for it is another matter entirely.

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