Film, DVD, Blu-Ray & Streaming Reviews - By Fans For Fans



Directed by Kyle Edward Ball.
Starring Lucas Paul, Dali Rose Tetreault.
Horror, US, 105 minutes, certificate 15.


Released in the UK on Blu-ray & DVD by Acorn Media International on 3rd July.


Arriving on Shudder at the start of the year, Kyle Edward Ball’s debut feature seemed to receive just as much acclaim as derision from an audience totally unexpected for its impressionistic, slow-burn style. Now released on Blu-ray, it may be a tad soon for an all-out definitive revision, but this film already deserves and rewards a rewatch for those in tune with its own wavelength.


Ball makes an immediate impression here with his near-abstract style in storytelling. What could have been a routine haunted house/boogeyman tale of children in peril is something different that feels completely original here. Telling the tale of young siblings Kevin and Kaylee waking up one night in their suburban home, only to find their father missing, their fears mount when all the windows, doors and even toilets also disappear.  Taking solace by building a makeshift fort in front of a glowing television set that continuously warbles out distorted cartoons, Kevin and Kaylee soon discover the presence of a nightmarish figure that wants to play with them in increasingly disturbing ways.


Ball’s style could be seen as distancing with his insistence on long, drawn-out close-ups of seemingly mundane household objects and fixtures, paired with a distorted audio soundscape causing the viewer to strain themselves in looking and listening for the details in the darkness. When they do appear, it is sometimes to impressively unsettling effect, at one point managing to make a vintage Fisher Price telephone more malevolent and terrifying than any of the over-designed haunted dolls from the likes of THE CONJURING franchise. Ball’s style captures the feel and dread of childhood nightmares more than any other film in recent memory.


However, the fact that the film can test the patience of even its most ardent admirers cannot be denied. Over its one-hundred-minute running time, the film does feel unnecessarily stretched out at points. While it could be argued that the film is a sensory experience based on Ball’s recurring childhood nightmares dealing with abandonment and helplessness, the lack of plot only highlights these stretches of the film, which are narrative black spots.


This Blu-ray is disappointingly sparse regarding special features, with only a commentary track from Ball and director of photography Jamie McRae on offer. Although jovial and chatty, Ball is happy to go into detail on how he achieves certain aspects of the film but never the why. It feels like a missed opportunity, especially for a film that feels as personal as this one. The presence of subtitles has always been taken for granted on disc technology but feels like an essential component here, although Ball has provided certain scenes with their own subtitles to aid viewers through the distorted soundscape.


Part of a recent wave of slow-burn impressionistic horrors concerned with millennial angst, including Jane Schoenbrun’s WE’RE ALL GOING TO THE WORLD’S FAIR. For all its flaws, Robbie Banfitch’s equally divisive THE OUTWATERS, SKINAMARINK, still stands out as one of the year’s most original films and a prime example of what can be achieved in the genre. An impressive calling card for Ball makes one eager to see what he has next.


Iain MacLeod.


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Film, DVD, Blu-Ray & Streaming Reviews
By Fans For Fans