The heavily pregnant Jennifer makes a temporary move back to her hometown seeking respite from a devastating mental breakdown. Instead she finds herself trapped in a permanent state of escalating terror and failing trust.
A determined Jennifer struggles to shield her sanity but there is a malevolent presence dwelling in The House On Pine Street that seems just as determined to snatch it from her.
This haunted house chiller is not going to storm first past the post in the originality stakes but don’t let that put you off. The influences on show here may range from vintage Polanski (Rosemary’s Baby), Kubrick (The Shining) and more modern genre exponents such as Ti West (The Innkeepers) but they are shot through with fresh intelligence and vitality.
Emily Goss gives a nuanced central performance as Jennifer that’s calibrated for maximum empathy and as the films focal point she really does shine. The supporting cast are well fleshed out particularly Tisha Swart – Entwistle who adds emotional clout in a remarkable first screen role and Cathy Barnett (Raising Jeffrey Dahmer) as the marauding matriarch Meredith.
Even more impressive is the pictures willingness to engage in intellectual sparring with the audience exhibiting an impressive range of depth in both feminist concepts and the nature of inner daemons. Such faith in the viewers scope for interpretation evokes the famous final paragraph of Shirley Jackson’s masterpiece of ghostly terror The Haunting of Hill House (1959).
Some of the pacing is a little off and the film could have been edited with more bravery in order to funnel the action towards a sharper more satisfying conclusion. There are some scenes that lose impact through ill advised repetition and one climactic character decision in particular is pure face palm fodder, but for every inexperienced miss-fire there are multiple direct hits.
Brothers Aaron and Austin Keeling alongside co-writer Natalie Jones took this debut outing from concept to post-production in just 18 months. Exploiting their meager resources to the full by way of superb location management, judicious use of jump scares and committed performances this extremely unsettling heart banger is fueled by a palpable sense of self sufficient enthusiasm.
Critical and audience reaction has been almost overwhelmingly positive for this generous little movie and the less fatigued horror fan will find much to gratify their thirst for terror with even the most seasoned veterans pausing before they switch off the lights before bed.
The House On Pine Street beautifully blends spiky scares with festering dread and stands as a prime example of how to punch above a bantam-weight budget. It is an intimately nurtured labour of love and as such retains the type of intellectual integrity that can only subsist within the tributaries of American culture.
Genre: Supernatural , Drama | Distributor: Second Sight | DVD Release Date: 1st Feb. 2016 (U.K.) | Rating: 15 | Directors: Aaron and Austin Keeling | Cast: Emily Goss, Taylor Bottles, Cathy Barnett | Buy DVD: Here