First of all, the prize for the greatest movie title goes to this pick, which was mine sort of but more Jillian’s because Netflix kindly released it just in time for Halloween and she’s been so looking forward to it. It was therefore a no-brainer that this would be our last Halloween movie of the month!
(I’ve a feeling we might stretch this a bit, so sue us).
A little info about the movie: IATPTTLITH is a 2016 American-Canadian horror film which premiered at the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival. It’s so far been received quite well with comparisons drawn to Shirley Jackson’s work (tone I think more than specific material), as well as Roman Polanski, Kubrick and David Lynch (all influences I picked up during my viewing, more below).
As I typed that last paragraph and remembered a particular scene, I felt a chill run up my spine which is an excellent sign I would say. To the film!
*Spoilers ahead, yo*
IMDB Synopsis: A young nurse takes care of an elderly author who lives in a haunted house.
A nervy nurse called Lily (Wilson) arrives at the home of successful horror novelist Iris Blum (Prentiss), who is now bedridden and requires live-in care. Iris has no family or friends to speak of and talks only rarely. Lily herself is getting over a broken engagement so is almost grateful for the quiet afforded to her by the big empty house.
On the first night however, she gets freaked out by unfamiliar sounds and an incident that she manages to explain away easily, putting it down to first night nerves. (I’d have been out of there as quickly as my little trotters could carry me, so she’s braver than me).
What Lily thinks will be a short stay ends up being eleven months and counting. During this time her only contact with the outside world is with Iris’ estate manager, Mr Waxcap (Balaban) who doesn’t give much away. When Lily asks him to look at an ever-spreading patch of damp in the hallway, there’s a long conversation about whether it’s really necessary given the fact Iris is dying. His general demeanor is brusque and to the point.
During the same visit, Lily asks Mr Waxcap who Polly is, as Iris often calls out for a Polly and calls Iris by that name. Mr Waxcap doesn’t really know the answer but refers Lily to Iris’ most successful novel, The Lady in the Walls, the main character of which is named Polly. He looks shifty at this point I think, and buggers off soon after the topic of Polly comes up.
Well, Lily is a pussy (again, she’s definitely a better woman than I) and not at all down with reading any of Iris’ work but she hasn’t much choice if she wants to unravel the story and find out more about Polly. As this slowly plays out, the damp keeps spreading, it keeps raining outside and things go bump in the night.
Lily has a feeling that the story of the lady in the walls is based on the house and piece by piece, concludes that something horrifying happened there. We, the viewer, get an insight into what that was – AKA. what became of Polly (Boynton) – via the medium of flashback. We also get a glimpse of the young novelist Iris, who’s cool as fuck.
This film does have a shock ending, which we already have a fair idea of, as Lily herself tells us in her opening monologue. I won’t spoil it for you but I will say it’s spooky af and rather sad.
Notice I’ve done away with the questions section? There aren’t many left here at the end as it’s quite a well rounded conclusion but it does make you think: What is the moral of the story? I think it’s about not allowing yourself to dwell on the past or you’ll rot away. Ooooooo!
It may seem as though nothing much happens and it would be accurate to describe this as a slow burner, however it’s so atmospheric and genuinely chilling that to have approached it in any other way would surely have lost it its nuance. From the first spooky scene, which occurs as Lily talks on the phone with her friend, to the conclusion, I had goosebumps.
Dat phone cord scene though…
I was also very happy to be viewing something so old-school and rich in 2016 (with shades of good Hammer Horror). Not to say there aren’t truly brilliant, gorgeous ghost/horror stories made today, they just seem so few and far between.
There are a few cheap thrills that you can see coming but they’re executed in such a way that I didn’t really mind. I love the concept of your imagination fucking with you and there’s a particular scene, after Lily reads a few pages of Iris’ book and then stares into a darkened doorway that reminded me of how I felt when I read The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters on my honeymoon.
During one scene I got a distinct The Shining vibe and, although the old house is fresher than a Polanksi setting it has the same historic feel, as though the walls have eyes that watch every move. Ruth Wilson is very good as is the beautiful Paula Prentiss who plays the older Iris Blum.
A really interesting, and intelligent literary flavoured film.
My Rating: 4/5. Genuinely eery and recalls a simpler time when horror was very imagination driven, though it doesn’t pull its punches when it comes to shocking either. Loved it.