Talented actress Emily Goss plays a distraught mother-to-be who begins to experience strange paranormal activity during her third trimester in Aaron and Austin Keeling’s disappointing supernatural thriller The House on Pine Street.
The baby bump isn’t the only bump Jennifer (Emily Goss) has to worry about when she moves to her old home town in the third trimester of her pregnancy. Something happened in the city, something we dare not talk about and the emotionally fragile woman, along with her enigmatic mental scars and her husband, must settle as best they can into their new abode, with its cracked plaster and somebody else’s furniture. But when the lights dim, as they so often do on Pine Street, weird things start occurring to this young woman and no one believes her tales of ghostly happenings and otherworldly presences joining her for a shower.
Poor girl. I have even more sympathy for actress Goss who delivers a convincing performance as a conflicted woman on the verge of motherhood, cut adrift from those closest to her and falling into an ever deepening psychological void. Goss’ credible turn belies a script riddled with some horrendous dialogue, laborious plotting and a pair of supporting performances that would look out of place in a school play.
“Ghost don’t have rules” says Jennifer’s best friend during a less-than helpful surprise visit. It’s a shame then that bad horror movies do have rules and The House on Pine Street follows the generic playbook like an ageing militant football coach commanding his All Americans. Generic tropes are given the red carpet treatment with such unsubtle delivery you half expect the Wayans brothers to jump out and say “boo!” The directing team of Aaron and Austin Keeling show that the switch from short film (where much of their experience lies) to feature film is no easy feat, the thematic cornerstone of The House on Pine Street still very much rooted in short form territory.
Flourishes to enliven the sense of the paranormal and, indeed, the paranoia, are commendable such as an early scene when Jennifer finds an unwelcome guest in the downstairs bathroom after a house party. Indeed, the only time the film enjoys any subtly is when there’s the suggestion of a malevolent entity existing in the house. But aside from the odd moment of genuine unease including a sequence that’s admittedly as terrifying as the unseen hands in the brilliant The Entity, the mysterious door opening and closing motif is overused to the point of tedium.
The film never overcomes its deficiencies off the page. The writing trio, which includes the directors with producer Natalie Jones, is unable to extricate a good idea from dramatic pastiche and the baggage of unnecessary ambiguity. This isn’t helped by the film’s hackneyed dialogue, some of it wholly unnatural, delivered with overstated staging and, aside from Goss, from actors (particularly Cathy Barnett and Taylor Bottles as Jennifer’s mother and husband respectively) struggling to bring any authenticity to their characters. Barnett, predominantly a stage actress, has no sense of subtlety, projecting her way to caricature, while the charmless Bottles is stuck with an underwritten character, becoming nothing more than an unfortunate third wheel.
The result is a plodding, unsatisfactory journey to an inconsistent finale. Some films rightly leave questions unanswered but when the query is “why did I just waste two hours watching this” you know the film made some missteps along the way. Emily Goss is a real talent and gives The House on Pine Street something to shout about but aside from a couple of disturbingly memorable moments there’s very little to recommend about this decidedly dull, instantly forgettable domestic meltdown.
Written by Dan Stephens
Directed by: Aaron Keeling, Austin Keeling
Written by: Aaron Keeling, Austin Keeling, Natalie Jones
Starring: Emily Goss, Taylor Bottles, Cathy Barnett, Jim Korinke
Released: 2015 / Genre: Horror / Country: USA / IMDB
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The House on Pine Street is released on Feb 1 from Second Sight.