Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes
Fame can be fleeting, as true crime writer Ellison Oswalt (Ethan Hawk) discovers. His last books have not achieved the success he’d hoped for, nowhere near the fame and fortune that Kentucky Blood brought.
In order to work on a new book, Ellison uproots his wife and two children again, much to their disgruntlement. He insists that he needs to do this for the book, but they are less than understanding. In fact, they are prone to make fun of his failures, and warn him he better succeed this time. What Ellison hasn’t told even his wife, when she was concerned that they were living near a crime scene, is that they are living in the crime scene. Four members of a family were hanged in the back yard, and their daughter went missing. She’s still missing, in fact.
Ellison is determined to succeed, no matter what. When he discovers a box of old home movies up in the attic, he thinks he might be on to something. The local sheriff had warned him when they moved in that they should leave, but he hasn’t listened. One of the deputies(James Ransone) is a fan of Ellison’s and offers his assistance with the case. All he wants in return is to be remembered in the acknowledgements as having been of assistance. Ellison decides he can live with that.
The more he studies the movies, the more strange things are happening. His son begins having night
terrors again. His daughter is drawing strange pictures. When his wife Tracy (Juliet Rylance) learns about the house being the crime scene, she is lived and wants to leave, but Ellison refuses.
Ellison encounters a scorpion and then a snake in the attic. And although the children are strictly forbidden from going into their father’s office or to look at anything related to his work, someone keeps going in there and putting on the home movies. When Ellison discovers a common element to the murders, he begins to think they may be connect, and that something truly sinister is at work here.
At first, I wasn’t sure there was anything out of the ordinary about this film, but I grew to like it more the more I watched. There is a definite creepiness factor here. I kept wondering if Ellison would end up murdering his own family, sort of like Ronny DeFeo in The Amityville Horror. Luckily that didn’t happen. But what did happen was creepier.
I disliked his wife and kids for their lack of support or understanding of his work. Especially the wife, since she’s a grownup. Like she thought she could control what he wrote or something. Suggesting he forget true crime and go back to fiction. She was obviously disgusted with the whole idea of murder. Okay, maybe it wasn’t her thing, doesn’t mean she shouldn’t try to tell him what to write.
That being said, that’s nothing against the film, just the character. There is solid production value here, good acting, and decent writing. You might recognize the sheriff from Law and Order as Arthur Branch. Also, look for Vince D’Onofrio in an uncredited role.
The ending doesn’t exactly explain everything, at least in any way that makes sense. But hopefully, the next film will. I give this film a pretty solid 3.5 Stars.