18th May2015

‘The Haunting of Radcliffe House’ DVD Review

by Paul Metcalf

Stars: Olivia Williams, Matthew Modine, Antonia Clarke, Adam Thomas Wright, Richard Dillane, Howard Lee, Jonathan Jaynes, Rebecca Calder, Steve Oram, David J. Peel, Mark Heenehan, Stephen Chance | Written and Directed by Nick Willing


When it comes to ghost stories focused on haunted houses my personal favourites are The Haunting and The Legend of Hell House, the psychological scares make them genuinely creepy and most importantly effective.  The Haunting of Radcliffe House (also known as Altar) which has recently been released on DVD makes an attempt to scare its audience in classic ways, is it be effective?

When Meg Hamilton (Olivia Hamilton) is asked to renovate Radcliffe Hall she moves her family, including artist husband Alec (Matthew Modine) into the house while she works on it.  As she discovers more about the house though including the revelation of a secret room in the attic things gradually push Meg to decide to move out of the house.  With her husband’s behaviour become ever stranger she is forced to stay one more night, but will it be a night too far?

The Haunting of Radcliffe House may follow some stereotypical story elements for a haunted house movie, but one thing it does right is that it does not rely on special effects to try and get jump scares.  What it does instead is focus on the changes in behaviour and hints that all may not be as it seems in the house.  Whether it is something strange in a picture, a visit from an inquisitive but mysterious man or revelations of the house’s history the film is able to create an atmosphere of creepiness, and this is even before we see any ghosts.

The ghost itself, or the one we see at least lets its presence be known by the painful clicking of its finger joints, which does cause a few moments where it is quite cringe worthy.  The more interesting element of the haunting though is the one that is obviously inspired by The Shining with the house’s effect on the father.  His obsession and unconventional style with his artwork is interesting but feels a little underused, but the uncomfortable relationship that Alec and Meg already have creates the tension between the two before the house even has to apply any pressure.  It is admirable that the film tends to focus on these pressures more than cheap scares, whether these are a success or not is another story.

This lack of impact with the scares isn’t really down to any problem with relating to the characters because Olivia Hamilton, Matthew Modine and the actors who play the children are likable and you are able to connect with them and want to see them survive.  If anything The Haunting of Radcliffe Hall feels slightly rushed, and with some more focus on certain elements of the story it may have had a little more success.  It fails to be as psychologically scary as it needs to be, which is a shame.  Though I do admit the end is well done, leaving the audience questioning what they just saw, and assuming that the events may not have turned out as first thought.

While the film isn’t as successful in creating scares as I would have hoped, I still found The Haunting of Radcliffe House to be an easy watch, especially on repeated viewings (I watched it when it was shown on Channel 5 in the UK too).  With an actual attempt at not being just another run of the mill ghost story it is well worth a watch.  Just expect to be more intrigued rather than actually scared.

***½  3.5/5

The Haunting of Radcliffe House is out on DVD in the UK now.

Review originally posted on PissedOffGeek

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