20th Aug2018

Fantasia 2018: ‘Our House’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Thomas Mann, Percy Hynes White, John Ralston, Christine Horne, Nicola Peltz | Written by Nathan Parker | Directed by Anthony Scott Burns

our-house-poster

Our House, which is based on the 2010 film Ghost From the Machine, which also screened at Fantasia back in the day, tells the story of Ethan (Thomas Mann), who is left dealing with enormous guilt caring for his younger siblings after his parents are killed in a car accident. Quitting a promising future in technology; by day he juggles the responsibilities of raising two kids; by night, he tinkers in the garage on an invention he hopes will change the world: a machine that can generate wireless electricity. After several attempts with an electro-magnetic device, he finally breaches the wall between the living and the dead. But gets more than he bargained for, however, when the device awakens the dead souls that haunt the house. As Ethan and his siblings attempt to make contact with their parents, a horrifying realization sets in: not all the spirits in their midst may be friendly. This hair-raising science-fiction ghost story is a nightmare journey into a past that refuses to stay dead and buried.

Let’s get this out of the way… Yes, there is something about Our House that seems a little odd. The film’s director Anthony Scott Burns is making his feature debut (he previously wrote and directed the Father’s Day segment of the seasonal anthology Holidays) but the screenwriter, Nathan Parker, penned the screenplay both for Duncan Jones’ Moon, based on Jones’ story AND the 2011 Jason Statham film Blitz. So why adapt a well-regarded, pre-existing, if low-budget, movie?

It seems an odd choice to remake a film that is a) not that old and b) was a hit with critics upon its festival debut, with everyone touting Ghost From the Machine (aka Phasma Ex Machina) as a superb calling card for writer director Matt Osterman. A writer/direcotr who seemingly had nothing to do with THIS remake of his story which sticks very closely to Osterman’s tale, only with an increased budget and eschewing the more “sci-fi” trappings to truly distinguish it from the original; and as such it also loses some of the original charm too. Though I will say, the stellar casting choice of Thomas Mann goes a long way to making up for the what this film has lost in translation.

To be fair to Burns and Parker, their take on the story really fits the current horror narrative established by the likes of the Insidious and Conjuring franchises – taking the tropes of mumblecore and fusing them with low-budget genre filmmaking to create a character-driven and character-focussed film that utilises the cliches of horror in the stereotypical fashion yet never feels like its pandering to its genre leanings.

Apparently beset by some behind-the-scenes issues (there are reports of major changes to the film, leading to the original soundtrack composers removing their score from the film), Our House feels very much like any other supernatural genre film, with nothing to distinguish it from the pack. Yet at the same time it’s not the huge mess it could reportedly have been. It’s eminently watchable, ultimately saved by the ending which escalates the scary story into places you don’t expect, especially given what has come before. Offering a suprising climax to an unsurprising film.

***  3/5

Our House screened at Fantasia 2018 on Sunday July 22nd.

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