"One of those old-school ghost stories that nobody bothers to make anymore."
SCREENED AT THE 2006 FANTASTIC FEST: In the mood for a horror flick that's not awash in drippy gore, telegraphed scares, and distressingly familiar plot conventions? Got a taste for old school "quiet" thrillers like The Tenant, The Innocents and The Haunting? Well, here's a British indie flick that absolutely reeks of mood, atmosphere and quietly building intensity. Plus it moves pretty quick and it's not too long.I'll keep this review brief, since Lie Still runs a smooth 80 minutes, offers a rather simple plot, and delivers a few surprises along the way -- none of which I'll be covering.
John Hare needs a place to live. He's recently been dumped by his girlfriend, and he certainly doesn't have large amounts of money falling from his pockets. John chances upon an arid little boarding house and has a brief meeting with the smilingly weird landlord. Aside from a shortage of actual living space (and a horribly nasty old lady down the hall), the room seems fairly adequate for John's needs.
And yes, the boarding house seems to be haunted.
First-time writer/director Sean Hogan avoids all the standard cheats, and his sober and deliberate (yet never boring) pacing serves to slowly suck the viewer into the story. The filmmaker delivers a few clever little tricks (one involving a broken TV) on his way to a finale that's as quietly creepy as it is strangely satisfying.
Lead actor Stuart Laing deserves a good portion of credit, as his performance is the glue that holds the thing together. The actor delivers smooth and subtle work with a character who could have been portrayed as wild-eyed and hysterical -- and for a flick like this, that would have been the wrong choice. The supporting cast is equally excellent: Robert Blythe as a disconcertingly friendly landlord, Susan Engel as an old woman with a secret, Nina Sosanya as John's estranged-yet-still compassionate ex-girlfriend.Working on what must have been a seriously low budget, Hogan hits the scene with a confident and compelling little ghost story, and while "Lie Still" may not be poised to sweep through the horror landscape and earn a rabid cult following, it's still a smart, mellow and surprisingly intriguing piece of work. Those who prefer flash bang mayhem may walk away disappointed, but "Lie Still" kept me interested for all of its 80 minutes -- and, to its credit, the flick ends precisely when it ought to.