Film #307: I AM THE PRETTY THING THAT LIVES IN THE HOUSE
I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House
3 out of 5 stars
Director Oz Perkins (who made BLACKCOAT’S DAUGHTER and worked as an actor on films like SECRETARY and LEGALLY BLONDE) directs this slowly-paced, but beautifully shot ghost story from Netflix about a hospice nurse who comes to an isolated house to care of an aging horror writer. Like most good ghost stories, the narrative takes its time to develop and ultimately come to its conclusion, so viewers must be patient and stay attentive to “get” all the hints and implications of the story. In a weird way, the film becomes a sort of ‘ghost story within a ghost story” as we get a bit of the history of the house via ethereal flashback. Cinematography is VERY ‘old school’ in that the camera is sedentary, leaving characters to wander in and out of shots and making the audience silent – and immovable – observers to the drama. In other words, by locking the audience to a spot, they’re not sure where the scare is going to come from… only that it is going to come at them. As a result, a lot of time is spent waiting and fearing things known only to the audience's imagination. It's an effective ploy. The film stars Ruth Wilson (LUTHER, LONE RANGER), Bob Balaban (CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND), and a beautifully under-stated performance by screen veteran Paula Prentiss (STEPFORD WIVES), PRETTY THING is acted with great subtlety utilizing long, silent shots of the actors staring directly into the camera and making small facial expressions that betray mood. The feel of the film is reminiscent of Robert Wise’s THE HAUNTING and the narrative draws heavily from that film. There is a narration that, like a lot of narrations, hobbles the flow of the storytelling and draws the audience’s attention away from what’s happening on screen. Luckily, said narration is wonderfully written and falls lovely on the ear. The ending stumbles a tad, but still manages to work. Overall, many will find I AM THE PRETTY THING THAT LIVES IN THE HOUSE far too slow and pedantic, but for those with the patience (and who are used to more leisurely-paced fare), they will find a beautiful and enchanting tale.