An imposing Victorian mansion, ghostly apparitions in the ornate countryside estate, an artist father plagued by a malevolent spirit – sound familiar? Daniel Stephens takes a look at this competent but forgettable tale of the macabre.
It’s unforgivable that The Haunting of Radcliffe House writer-director Nick Willing waste’s such a great gothic mansion as the setting for his ghostly tale but waste it he does. A chance to add the claustrophobia of an imposing building, its faded ornate majesty a link to a time forgotten and neglected, is forgotten, as is the unsettling isolation of its middle-of-nowhere locale. That’s in favour of bumps in the night, demonic possession and full body apparitions.
There’s a distinct lack of subtlety which saps an otherwise competently constructed paranormal mystery of any emotional intensity. There’s a couple of nice twists which ensure Willing’s film is never dull, while Olivia Williams does a nice job as the career-driven restoration expect who tries to keep her family together despite husband Alec (Mathew Modine) appearing to fall under the powers of a malevolent force.
But the run-of-the-mill nature of The Haunting of Radcliffe House (also known as Altar) means it’s never more than merely diverting. Modine’s disinterested performance leaves a lot to be desired, while the heavy-handed overuse of synthetic digital effects is at times off putting, especially given its poor, children’s teatime TV execution.
For fans of classics like Jack Clayton’s brilliant 1961 film The Innocents, Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining from 1980 and even Hammer’s 1968 camp horror The Devil Rides Out, you’ll find yourself bemoaning Willing’s collection of plundered stylistic choices. But if you think originality is overrated then The Haunting of Radcliffe House might be of interest.
Written by Daniel Stephens
Directed by: Nick Willing
Written by: Nick Willing
Starring: Olivia Williams, Matthew Modine, Antonia Clarke
Country: UK / IMDB
The Haunting of Radcliffe House is available now on DVD in the UK courtesy of Image Entertainment.