Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Review: The Inhabitants

Text © Richard Gary / Indie Horror Films, 2016
Images from the Internet

The Inhabitants: Standard Edition
Written and directed by the Rasmussen Brothers (Michael and Shawn)
Lascaux Media / Sinister Siblings Films /
Film Rise / MVD Visual
90 minutes, 2015 / 2016

I love when a title has a cool double or even triple entendre to it. As an example, this one works quite well, and I’ll get to that in a sec.

Michael and Shawn Rasmussen, who apparently like to be known as “The writers of John Carpenter’s The Ward” (2010),” also wrote and directed this one, the second feature for which they sat in the main chair(s). The outcome is a different vision when you can make the whole film you write, so this gives them some freedom of self-expression.
This was filmed at the Noyes-Parris House (built in 1669), somewhere in a wooded suburban area of Wayland, MA, approximately 30 miles due west from Salem. The Heritage Home, which doubles for the March Carriage B&B here, actually has an historical, sinister connection to the infamous witch trials, giving some credibility to the look and tone of the film.

Elise Couture Stone
Into the picture come Dan (Michael Reed) and Jessica (Elise Couture Stone), a young couple who buy the mysterious B&B from its previous owner (Judith Chaffee), a widow who has been sinking into senility. Pretty early on – enough towards the beginning I don’t feel like I’ve giving away anything – we learn that the house was originally owned by a woman named Lydia (India Pearl), a witch who was hanged in – yep – 1669. Needless to say, she hasn’t exactly vacated the premises, and has found ways to create a family writ large.

If you watch the trailer, which gives away too much of the story, pretty soon you know wifey is under Lydia’s spell; this spells (pun intended) trouble for just about anyone and everyone. So, this brings me to the point I mentioned earlier about the entendre: are the Inhabitants the earthly ones living in the house, the supernatural ones lingering (as the band Sparks might sing), or the supernatural one inside the living one? Gotta say, whichever way, it works.

India Pearl
The premise itself is hardly new, and I even predicted most of the ending about a third of the way through: been there, seen that. That being said, and this is a big however, the Brothers Rasmussen have taken an old motif and really worked it like kneading a raisin challah. The end result is quite delicious, even if you’ve eaten that kind before.
There are some really nice jump scares, but that is due to both the surprise and a lot to the make-up, which is really top notch Lydia and the others look just plain free-kaaay, with the wide, white eyes. Again, I’ve seen this so many times before, but the look and lighting works so well together to make it pop. I admit freely that ghost stories have always been my favorites; spookies + body count = happiness, for me. That does not mean that all of this genre are good, but this one certainly is better than most I’ve seen recently.

Michael Reed
The acting is also quality work. For example, Reed has never disappointed, even in outrageous roles (e.g., The Disco Exorcist [2011]). If I recall correctly, he may be using his own jacket because I could have sworn I’ve seen the (faux) fur-color thing before. But I digress… Here, as the husband who is trying to work out what the hell is happening to his life-partner while still trying to maintain his own space in the house, he comes across as both strong and flawed. Couture is the centerpiece of the film, as the wife who is dealing with a supernatural assault. She gets to play the role in two modes, being a loving wife for the first half, and then nearly as a somnambulist as she is influenced by the evil being living in her home. As the evil Lydia, the lovely Pearl dons the fright make-up and goes full throttle as the wicked witch of Wayland. Her scenes are short, but she makes her presence (pun intended) known to the viewer.

My complaint about the film, as I stated before, is that the trailer gives away too much, so I recommend seeing the film instead. But that note is a minor chord, as the film really is a fun watch, from beginning to end. While there is little character development, you do get the impression that the couple love each other, and you feel the ominousness almost from the gecko (yes, I know it’s “get-go”). Plus the effects are also enjoyable; the blood is not plentiful (and rightfully so for the story), and also seems to have the right consistency, i.e., doesn’t ooze like chocolate syrup.

The house, the lighting, the editing, the acting and the story all work together to create a totally enjoyable ghostie. By “Standard Version,” as this release is called, I am assuming means that it is CD rather than Blu-Ray, and perhaps has less extras, but that’s okay, as it still packs quite a punch.

Part of the reason why this is such a fun flick, as I’ve mentioned before, is the pacing of the film. What I mean by that is the Bros. don’t fall into the trap that many do: normally, I really hate the whole walking cautiously through the dark house / basement / cellar / woods / scenes with a flashlight (or candle, depending on the film), in what feels like an endless padding of time. The suspense is kept in play because it’s done in short segments. Also, it’s not so dark that all you can see is whatever the light falls upon, nor is it a shaky camera, for once; thank you for that. Makes me forgive you for (please read the rest of the sentence in a Maxwell Smart voice) the old moving-the-bathroom-cabinet-mirror-and-suddenly-the-ghost-is -behind-the-person trick.  

Other than chapters, the only extras are two different types of sound and subtitles (always appreciated).

This is one of the better indie films I’ve seen this year. The Rasmussens have taken some tired and tried ideas and actually improved them to the point where I didn’t feel, really?! That is actually saying a lot. Go and check it out. A great Halloween watch.

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