Stained by the brutal death of a young woman, the tranquil and vacant New England mansion of the prolific horror authoress, Iris Blum, has become her silent prison. To take care of the ageing writer who suffers from chronic dementia, the property's manager hires the gentle and soft-spoken live-in hospice nurse, Lily Saylor; however, this is far from an ordinary job. Little by little, Lily's imagination will run wild, as shadowy sightings of eerie female spectres blur the frail boundaries between reality and fantasy, fable and truth. Iris has talked about man's coexistence with the spectral realm in her novels that chill the bone to the marrow. Could her secluded white house at the end of the road be an aerial limbo caught in the middle of life and death?Written by
This movie takes place in Braintree, Massachusetts See more »
The Netflix trailer includes a copyright line with a misprint in the year, it states "Copyright MMXCI", a misprint for MMXVI (2016). MMXCI is 2091. The main film's opening copyright line also has a misprint. It reads "A Netflix Original Film. All rights reserved. MMXVI". This omits the word "Copyright" and the recognized symbol for it. (Copyright is properly asserted at the end of the end credits.) See more »
Where did you go, Polly?
I didn't go anywhere, Ms. Blum. I'm here with you, same as I have always been. The same Lily Saylor of 43 Hoover Road, Altoona... Pennsylvania. At your service.
You had so much to say in those first years. When you lived here with me. Enough to fill a book. And then... nothing. You turned your back. You turned your back, and you turned your back so many times... that soon your feet were facing the wrong way altogether. And I had to watch you come into a room... back to ...
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"I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House"- Both the most engaging and enthralling horror film I've seen in some time... and also one of the most tedious.
On its surface, it would be very easy to outright dismiss writer/director Osgood Perkins' atmospheric Gothic-horror picture "I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House." And for good reason. The film is an exercise in deliberation. But it is an exercise that goes too far too often, and suffers for it. Without doubt, most viewers who choose to indulge in viewing it will find their minds wandering and themselves nodding off within the first act because the film's pacing and structure lend to an overpowering sense of tedium and dullness. This is without doubt the very definition of a "slow burn." It both literally and figuratively crawls from scene to scene, with dialog delivered in drawn out whispers and characters moving as if filmed in slow motion at all times. Even as someone with a great bit of patience for films such as this, I found myself checking my phone more times than I'd like to admit.
And yet... I never felt the urge to stop watching. Because despite this glaring issue, the craftsmanship and storytelling is completely enthralling and endlessly engaging, with a grand old-fashioned vibe that I couldn't help but be pulled into from the very first scene. In many ways, it reminded me of the campfire ghost stories of old, classic Hollywood creep-fests of the 50's and 60's and the ancient photographs of ghosts and spirits you stumble across when you research the supernatural. So much of the film is so lovingly assembled to tell a classic tale of the unknown that I couldn't help but watch it start-to-finish... even when it very nearly put me to sleep more than once.
The film follows the tale of a lonely and easily frightened young woman called Lily (Ruth Wilson), who is hired to serve as a live-in caregiver to retired author Iris Blum (Paula Prentiss) in her final years. But as the film informs us through a wonderfully poetic opening narration, Lily's future is a dark one- she tells us that within the year, she will be dead, and we will be witness to the events that lead up to her passing. And the film follows just what happened, as Lily is haunted by strange sounds and visions and begins to suspect that there is something very wrong in the home of Iris Blum. Something that may be connected to her most popular novella- a tale of horror called "The Lady in the Walls."
The strengths of the film lay in Perkins capable hands as a storyteller. The film is absolutely stunning to behold, with an intriguing premise that keeps you thoroughly invested and some of the most gorgeous cinematography in some time, despite the film taking place almost entirely inside of a single house. The expert sense of composition and movement that Perkins excels at builds and maintains a startling and sometimes overwhelming sense of dread and pure guttural terror, and his keen use of carefully calculated jumps will illicit some serious creeps for open minded horror fans. He also wisely keeps the film both focused but also vague, giving it a bit of a mystery flair that will keep you wondering what will come next. And of course, as mentioned before, the dialog and structure of the film is pure poetry. Very classy work.
But it comes at a cost. That being the frankly bizarre sense of pacing that is a result of the calm, calculated storytelling. I hate to say it, but this is a phenomenal short film that is nearly destroyed because it is slowly (and arguably needlessly) dragged to feature length to the point of hilarity and then frustration. There's no good reason this same film could not have been told in a much shorter span of time. A forty minute short-subject with this exact same script and these exact same shots would have been a revelation of pure terror. But padding it out to near ninety minutes is nearly a kiss of death to the entire project. There's only so long you can see Wilson slowly wandering down the hallways moving at a pace of only one step every ten seconds before you feel a yawn arising... only so many times the camera can linger eerily on the same open doorway while slowly zooming in for effect before it starts to feel empty... only so many times you can hear the same droning creaks of floorboards for minutes on end before it loses effect. The pacing is nearly a disaster.
As it stands, it's almost impossible to recommend "I Am the Pretty thing That Lives in the House" to any potential audience. It's beautiful. Stunning even. And a wonderful ghost story told in an unconventional fashion. But it comes at the cost of pacing. I can see too many people being too bored of it to suggest it to anyone outside of the most forgiving of genre fans. But if you prefer and enjoy deliberate horror. If you relish in the slow-burn of features like "The Witch" and "The Shining." You might get something out of it.
I give it an above average 6 out of 10. A beautiful but troubled work of art.
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