Old Woman: “Do you understand? They’re dead–and they’re hungry. It’s as simple as that.”
The Haunting of #24 (also know as Lie Still) is an old-school supernatural/haunted-house Horror movie. It’s a taught modern Gothic soaked in human suffering, where one man’s emotional breakdown coincides with terrifying paranormal events. It’s a struggle not merely for his life–but for his soul.
heck out my review after the jump.
Back of the Box: Welcome to the House! It seemed like the kind of house where no on asked you any questions. But from the moment John (Stuart Laing) moved into #24, it didn’t feel right. It’s true, he’d always suffer from nightmares… but these were different. Besides, those noises outside his door were definitely real. Or seemed to be. The mad old woman next door had told him to leave, but he hadn’t listened. Now it might be too late. The dreams were getting worse, and the doors didn’t seem to lead where they should anymore. His new home had a hold on him now, and the OTHER tenants are ready to introduce themselves.
It’s not the nicest boarding house in town, and that’s putting it mildly; it’s run down and spooky. The friendly yet off-kilter landlord, Martin Stone(Robert Blythe) admits there’s simply not enough money to maintain proper upkeep–and it shows. The room John rented was Spartan and bleak, little more than a closet with a bed and kitchen crammed inside–and the shared bathroom is disgusting. Perhaps worst of all is the utterly unnerving old photograph of the house’s original owner (unnamed, but referred to as “The Dark Man”) that hangs framed on a wall. It’s not the kind of place anyone would want to live if they had an alternative–and that’s the point. John is down on his luck; it’s obvious even before we learn the circumstances. This makes it all the more unsettling when Martin claims that the house attracts a specific type of tenant–and John looks like he’ll fit right in.
Two striking things happen to John immediately after he moves in. On his first visit to a local pub, an old man claims to have seen him there before. It’s a strange interaction that doesn’t quite gel with the story-arch of the film. Does this mean that John has a past that he doesn’t remember, or is this some sort of past-life, reincarnation scenario? This meeting leads to nothing; the old man and John’s connection to him are never discussed again. Second: While sitting out back puffing a joint, John discovers a headstone in the garden. Sure, this seemed weird to me, but I’m American, so I figured maybe this kind of thing isn’t terribly uncommon across the pond, where everything has a more extensive history. There is no name on the marker, merely a two word inscription: “Lie Still”. While this sentiment seem to echo the simplistic sincerity of the more common “Rest in Peace”, there is a mote sinister implication; while it may be a wish that the deceased finds peace, it can also be seen as a command–like someone wants this spirit to remain underground (because he’s a dangerous trouble-maker, it can be assumed).
The old lady who lives in the room next door (Susan Engel) is extremely unnerving. She tells John to leave or, at the very least, to get rid of his television; she makes him feel entirely unwelcome–until she tries to grab his dick (Yikes!). Her identity and her connection to the house are at the core of the mystery presented in The Haunting of #24.
John ends up at #24 after he breaks up with his girlfriend Veronica (Nina Sosanya), and his life quickly falls into shambles. While Veronica wants to move on from the relationship, she’s so worried about John’s mental deterioration that she feels compelled to help him; her altruistic intensions leads to some disastrous consequences for them both. The emotions surrounding this doomed relationship evokes a real sense of human-drama and compounds the stress of the supernatural manifestations.
John’s television becomes a conduit to another world, presumably the spirit realm. The creepiest scenes in The Haunting of #24 deal with ghostly images staring at him through the static–even when the television is unplugged. This is reminiscent of other films; The idea of a TV as a conduit was used in Poltergeist. The ghostly images echoes the terror of J-Horror films like Pulse and The Ring. The Haunting of #24 is relatively straight-forward and focused; even when presented with unexplained paranormal phenomena, everything makes sense. The acting is great; the FX are simple but effective.
This isn’t the kind of film that will have you jumping in terror or watching through your fingers; it’s slow-burn like a couple other Modern Gothic films I’ve reviewed this year, like The Hanover House and Lord of Tears. These films are all about creating a pervasive sense of dread that’s somehow tied to deep-seeded human suffering, where madness is both an actuality and a metaphor.
Action-packed Horror it ain’t, so if you like your films filled with gore and violence, move along now. Aficionados who appreciate a literary quality to their films will find The Haunting of #24 a worth-while experience. The Haunting of #24 is a surprisingly effective film, especially for a micro-budget indie. Good job!
Stick it out through the credits for a spooky 45 second “stinger”.
3 out of 5 Skull Heads.
R, 1 hr. 20 min.
Directed By: Sean Hogan
In Theaters: Oct 8, 2005 Wide
On DVD: Sep 11, 2007