DIRECTOR Aaron Keeling; Austin Keeling WRITER Aaron Keeling; Austin Keeling; Natalie Jones STARS Emily Goss; Taylor Bottles; Cathy Barnett DVD & VOD 1 February
Aaron and Austin Keeling’s feature is a psychological drama that’s been dressed up in supernatural clothes. An emotionally-broken mother-to-be, Jennifer and her husband Luke, have moved back to her Kansas hometown from Chicago, she much more reluctantly than he. She appears to have no old friends or happy memories from her past. Soon, Jennifer starts having odd experiences: objects move when she turns her back, knocking on doors, odd shadows. She begins to believe the house is haunted, but others are unconvinced.
The claustrophobia of pregnant Jennifer cooped up in the dark house evokes Mia Farrow’s descent into madness during Rosemary’s Baby, which is an obvious influence here, particularly during scenes where a neighbourhood conspiracy seems to be happening. Unfortunately, where Polanski’s classic of tension and distress was all about making sure Satan’s child could be born, no such conspiracy exists in The House on Pine Street. This is simply a damaged woman in a maybe-haunted house. But while it doesn’t quite live up to its expectations (frustratingly so — there’s an intriguing backstory that’s simply forgotten) the film is purposeful and a slow-burner, setting things up neatly and building characters, so when the scares do come they’re effective. Emily Goss is superb as Jennifer, a genuine break-out performance, and the Keeling brothers know their way around a camera and get a lot out of the standard creepy house format. And while a knowing audience will be able to telegraph the final act, they’ll appreciate the ride getting there.