Stars: Ryan Simpkins, Annika Marks, Karina Logue, | Written and Directed by Sonny Mallhi
Sonny Mallhi is probably not a name on anyones horror radar, however Mallhi was the producer on films like The Strangers, House at the End of the Street and the fantastic 2014 Fightfest flick At the Devils Door (aka Home). With Anguish he turns his hand at not only writing (he previously penned the psycho-stalker films The Roommate and Crush) but directing. Now I mention all those other films because Mallhi’s work has been met with various degrees of success, both commercially and critically – so going into Anguish I had no idea what to expect. I did hope for something as stunningly scary as At the Devils Door, what we got is something akin more to The Roommate…
Apparently inspired by a true possession story (though the opening titles talk more about teenagers mental health than demonic possession), Anguish tells the story of Tess, a teenager who has been suffering from anxiety since childhood and is on medication. But when the family moves to a small house in Texas it becomes clear her dissociative identity disorder condition might not be necessarily psychological when she becomes susceptible to spirits of the deceased – especially that of the ghostly Lucy, who is killed in a tragic accident pre-credits.
I say Anguish is like The Roommate not to belittle the film but to emphasise my sheer disappointment. The Roomate was a teenage-girl-friendly take on Single White female, stripping out everything that made the latter such an effective thriller; muddling the horror/thriller tropes of the story with One Tree Hill style teen melodrama. And Anguish does very much the same.
Don’t get me wrong, Ryan Simpkins gives a superb performance as Tess, it’s just that the rest of the movie cannot live up to her portrayal of the troubled teen. It doesn’t help that Anguish lurches from dramatic psychological drama one minute to J-horror-style jump scares the next.
What Anguish does have going for it though is a real ominous feeling running throughout. Yet Mallhi and co. seem to want to shy away from that very threatening feel they’ve created. Instead of an all-out fear-filled possession movie we get a watered down take on the all-too-familiar story that is more concerned with the psychological well being of Tess rather than any real sense of horror. Which ultimately means this film becomes that most evil of horror movies… a dull one.