“The first night in a place always weirds me out”
Released by Netflix just in time for Hallowe’en, I Am The Pretty Thing That Lives in the House naturally popped up on my register as it features the ever-luminous Ruth Wilson in the starring role of Lily. Indeed, Oz Perkins’ film rests mainly on her shoulders, as a live-in hospice nurse who becomes increasingly convinced that her elderly employee’s Massachusetts house is haunted. her fears rooted in her boss Iris Blum’s former career as a horror author.
It’s a remarkably restrained affair from writer and director Perkins, astutely aware of the power of showing as little as possible whilst ratcheting up the tension through a rumbling sound design and a gorgeously gloomy colour palette from cinematographer Julie Kirkwood. It’s unrelentingly creepy rather than outright shocking (for the most part at least…) and this mood that it cultivates is properly scary (and that’s coming from someone who’s really not that much of a fan of the genre).
It helps to have an actor of the calibre of Wilson at the heart of the play, her carer curiously anachronistic – as if uprooted from the middle of the twentieth century – and through her voiceover, the inexorable growth of her fear, as she investigates whether one of Iris’ stories was based on a real murder in that very house, becomes utterly compelling through the sheer simplicity of its imagery, the sparseness of the shots that allows the imagination to run wild.
Supported by strong work from Bob Balaban as the estate manager and Paula Prentiss’ near-dessicated Iris, I Am The Pretty Thing… is a subtler horror film than one might expect, but it is all the most effective for it – recommended.