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Inhabitants, The
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by Jay Seaver

"Very much a fixer-upper."
2 stars

Michael & Shawn Rasmussen shot "The Inhabitants" inside a historic house that has genuine secret passages and stories of hauntings, and it sometimes seems like it provided a little too much inspiration. This film has a little bit of this, a little bit of that, and you wind up with a few scary moments but no one idea is ever strong enough to bury into the viewer's head and truly terrify.

That haunted house is, naturally, just outside Salem, Massachusetts, a bed & breakfast being purchased by young couple Dan (Michael Reed) & Jessica (Elise Couture), as the current owner, Rose (Judith Chaffee), is no longer capable of operating it as a business - or, really, living on her own. It apparently needs a fair amount of sprucing-up before re-opening, and when Dan is called away to Chicago for business, Jess finds herself beset by both the place's sordid history and some trouble-making local kids.

The Rasmussens seem to have started with a reasonably strong idea for a horror movie - a legend about a midwife persecuted for witchcraft whose beyond-the-grave revenge persists to this very day. It not only twists a position of trust into something dangerous, but it gives the filmmakers seventeenth-century medical tools with which to creep the audience out and a reasonable connection to a present-day woman's own fears. When they're building and digging into this mythology, The Inhabitants is genuinely creepy.

Despite this being under ninety minutes, they don't keep that focus very well. Jessica's specific vulnerability to this place's dangers are established with a couple shots of a photograph that is otherwise not commented upon, and while that's efficient storytelling at the start, it's a missed opportunity for an emotional explosion later on. Besides, there's a fair amount of bloat in the pair working on the house, and then there's this whole voyeurism thing going on at the same time. That could be interesting on its own, but there winds up not being room for all of the potential directions that the story leads.

The cast mostly does okay with it; if the front end of the movie is a bit of a drawn-out getting-to-know-you period, it's fairly enjoyable to get to know the two leads. Elise Couture and Michael Reed are comfortable enough in those roles to make the time go by fairly well, with just enough prickliness to indicate that it's not an ideal marriage at every moment. Reed is fairly decent when his character reappears in the second half, although Couture runs into some trouble, as Jess's encounter with that which is hiding in the house's walls seems to make her dull rather that touched by strangeness, draining her humanity without replacing it with anything.

The brothers prove to be pretty decent filmmakers in other areas, though - they get a fair number of good jumps from looming shadows and things that the audience can't clearly see, displaying the sort of patience that is generally a virtue in this sort of thriller. The film is shot very well in some tight quarters - you can't just tear down an inconvenient wall in a 350-year-old house - and when it comes time for a little blood or the spooky make-up, the crew deivers just fine. The basic materials that a horror movie has to have and not seem a bore are done well.

I really do wish that that they had been able to take this basic capability and connect it to a single strong theme or concept. That's what can shake a viewer more than a few jumps and make a movie feel like it's building to something rather than bsting a few scary scenes together.

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originally posted: 10/14/15 09:56:55
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User Comments

10/14/15 Ronald Holst not my cup of tea but if you enjoy films about ghosts you might enjoy this 3 stars
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