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Thursday, June 11, 2020

Review: Our House

Director: Anthony Scott Burns
Screenplay: Nathan Parker
Year: 2018

“Our House” is a movie from production companies IFC Films and XYZ Films that has been recently acquired by Netflix and made available on their platform during the month of June 2020.

In an unexpected accident, Ethan’s parents die, and he has to leave his aspirations of becoming a scientist to take care of his smaller siblings. However, Ethan continues working on one of his inventions, with which, without realizing it, he amplifies the paranormal activity in his house. With hopes of being able to talk with his dead parents, Ethan continues to work on a way to amplify the signal from his machine, which at the same time invites in unfriendly entities.

As what usually happens with movies from IFC Films and its label IFC Midnight, “Our House” leans towards a slower and more atmospheric development of its plot. In this development, debuting director Anthony Scott Burns and screenwriter Nathan Parker (“Blitz”) put a lot of weight on the emotional drama that the family lives after their parent’s accident. Ethan’s life (Thomas Mann; “Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters”) suddenly changes as he has to park his studies to assume a parent-like role for taking care of his siblings, the teenager Matt (Percy Hynes White; “Cast No Shadow”) and young Becca (Kate Moyer; “The Handmaid’s Tale”), all of them reflecting their pain for their loss in different ways. 

While Ethan doesn’t have much spare time or energies, Matt becomes rebellious and harsh with his brother while Becca starts to have issues with social interactions but finds refuge in what initially seems like imaginary friends. When Matt and Ethan start experimenting supernatural phenomena in the house related to the use of Ethan’s invention, they both realize that their sister is interacting with supernatural presences. Slowly the presence of these entities becomes more and more evident in the house, as well as the fact that not all of them have the best intentions.

The emotional development and how every family member deal with their grief is the most interesting aspect and what’s better done in the movie. The quality of how the characters are developed in the script and how the actors take them to the screen is key in making the emotional part work out and it is well achieved. However, this strength is contrasted with some weaknesses, such as weak dialogues, and the suspicion that neither the screenwriter nor the actors had any idea of the science or engineering basis behind the operation of Ethan’s invention and this reflects on generalized and superficial dialogues. Of course, no one wants a science class in a horror movie, but it could have benefited from a better-worked terminology. 

The supernatural part takes its time to show up and, although there are clues that something is happening in several parts of the movie, it is not until the third act that the supernatural presence is confirmed. This stretch, while it is interesting, suffers from haunted house movie clichés and ends up being disappointing.  The visuals for presenting these entities look good, but their look lacks the scare factor. 

“Our House” gets into the haunted house and paranormal presences horror movie genres, both in which it is hard to innovate because of the large number of movies that have been done on them. As expected, it suffers from repeating the same clichés that we have seen in so many movies on similar topics. Entertaining without being groundbreaking, its emotional side ends up being better done than its paranormal side.

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