Words: Brody Rossiter
KNOCK KNOCK, WHO’S THERE?
After escaping the their frantic inner-city lifestyle and moving to the Kansas suburbs, married couple, Jennifer (Emily Goss) and Luke (Taylor Bottles), find themselves haunted by a mysterious past trauma and a series of paranormal events that plague the pregnant Jennifer.
Jennifer’s physical fragility quickly gives way to the plight of mental illness; the young mother is haunted by both a shadowy figure in the crawlspace and society’s stigmas towards those with a history of psychological issues. Her family, friends, partner and the viewer are left questioning whether such terrors and inexplicable happenings are a construct of the increasingly frail Jennifer’s mind, or whether a malevolent force truly stalks their grand new home.
Jennifer’s overbearing mother, a psychic chiropractor, and the alcoholic lady next door – who is also the mother of creepy mute twins – all find themselves thrust into her tale of woe. This is where the structural cracks begin to show. Unique individuals repeatedly cross the threshold, but the picture never fleshes them out or even resolves their stories. The narrative is stretched too thinly despite possessing 111 minutes to nail down its many themes, and rather than elaborating upon a tangible cause for Jennifer’s past troubles, the viewer is left with an unfocused jumble of loose ends and meandering dialogue – the lack of foresight perhaps the result of directors The Keeling Brothers and Natalie Jones sharing screenwriting duties.
After a promising introduction, The House on Pine Street finds itself bogged down in a mire of recycled set-pieces and dead-end exposition. Despite the combined talents of The Keeling Brothers and Natalie Jones, the film lacks a cutting-edge which may leave contemporary horror fans unsatisfied and genre aficionados longing for a more focused and lore packed picture. Nevertheless, the unsettling tale repeatedly impresses with its flashes of originality, committed performances and visual prowess – especially when saddled with an independent filmmaking budget.
The narrative repeatedly challenges Jennifer to face her fears and uncover their origins, but when it’s time to unveil the true horror, very little stares back from the darkness. While such ambiguity may serve other horror pictures well, The House on Pine Street’s lack of commitment to fostering a distinct antagonist inside its walls costs the picture dearly.
THE FILM: 2.5/5
THE PACKAGE: 2/5
FIW RATING: 2.5/5