Isla Fisher is a pregnant mother coming to terms with a fatal road collision who begins to experience supernatural occurrences after moving into a new home in Blumhouse’s (Insidious, Paranormal Activity) latest addition to their horror portfolio…
Having done a satisfactory job on a pair of Saw sequels, and worked in some artistic form on several James Wan and Jason Blum projects, director Kevin Greutert has embedded himself within Hollywood’s elite horror film production factories. That has provided him with some artistic license; albeit as a director-for-hire ready to shoot, in this case, Blumhouse’s latest too-hot-to-handle (apparently) screenplay Visions. But allowing the leash to extend too far isn’t an ideal scenario when your script is a tiresome cut and paste job and your man-at-the-helm is asking himself: “What would James Wan do?”
Blumhouse Productions has, despite winning Oscar respectability with music drama Whiplash, branded itself as the production house of scary movies. Visions, however, isn’t one of them. Its tedious use of red herrings and false avenues wouldn’t be so damning were it not for an undernourished premise that manufactures the emotive consequences of a first-time mother struggling to come to terms with a fatal road collision. Actress Isla Fisher doesn’t sell it but it’s difficult to blame her when the material is so thin. It’s a problem though. When things do go bump in the night you have to stretch your suspension of disbelief to breaking point just to care.
Thematically, Visions latches onto the well-worn tropes of the maternal horror movie. Whether it be pubescent teenagers giving their mothers hell (The Exorcist) or attack-of-the-foetus (Rosemary’s Baby), children have played an important role in turning their horror movie parent’s lives upside down. The trend won’t go away. Recently we’ve seen Emily Goss deliver a commendable performance as a pregnant woman in the otherwise forgettable supernatural thriller The House On Pine Street and David Farr’s impressive debut The Ones Below which saw Clémence Poésy battling the demands of motherhood alongside the strange activities of new neighbours in the downstairs apartment.
Visions has quite a lot in common with Farr’s film but importantly lacks the subtleties, dramatic invention or characterisation of his effort. Greutert is far too concerned with filming Fisher in close-up as another one of her titular “visions” begins to take hold than building suspense. He’s overeager for a cheap shock than about story development which allows the film to drift aimlessly towards the inevitable tying of loose ends.
Getting there can be a chore at times. The haphazard, almost juvenile, approach to mental health doesn’t help but it’s the underwritten ancillary characters that really grate. It’s particularly infuriating that the disbelieving husband (Anson Mount) is the only one who isn’t crying “ghost” at the first sign of paranormal activity. Like the phoned-in performances of Joanna Cassidy and John de Lancie who offer shoehorned exposition in some of the film’s most laughably phony sequences, it’s lazy; a prolonged preamble to a silly, flat conclusion. Blumhouse can file Visions away with the footnote: “must try harder”.