A hospice nurse moves into a home outside New Orleans to take care of an elderly man and his wife, only to find the house holds some secrets.
I was fifteen when this movie came out, and I remember seeing it soon after it came out on DVD and thinking it was all right. It’d been years since I’d even thought of this film, and honestly I think this film could’ve slipped from my memories completely had my roommates and I not been watching Dark Tourist- a show on Netflix about the grimmer side of tourism. In one of the episodes, the host goes down to New Orleans and explores elements of voodoo and hoodoo culture. The imagery and ideas that came along with that segment were creepy and disconcerting, and one of my roommates wondered allowed, “I wonder why they never make movies about stuff like this.” Immediately, my brain jumped to this movie, and I suggested we give it a shot. “Is it actually good?” My roommate asked. “If I remember right, it was pretty good,” said I. Turns out I didn’t remember right.
"What power?" "Power of voodoo!" "Who do?" "You do!"
While this movie isn’t good, it isn’t the worst thing I’ve ever seen either. There are some decent performances, accompanied by some not so decent performances. John Hurt (“The Elephant Man”) out acts everyone else in the cast while only saying a total of probably five words. Peter Sarsgaard (“Garden State”) was good too, if not a little dry in some scenes, and his southern drawl was lacking a bit. Gena Rowlands (“The Notebook”) was a touch dramatic for my liking, but in some scenes she really did the material justice. My biggest issue was actually with Kate Hudson, which makes me a little sad to say. I sort of fell in love with Kate Hudson in “Almost Famous”- her portrayal of Penny Lane in that film is absolutely enchanting and spellbinding, but unfortunately I’ve never seen her rise to that level again. She’s incredibly uneven in this movie, though I’m not sure if the fault is in her hands or in the directors, because many of the scenes on the whole were awkwardly executed. I had issues really connecting to any of the characters; none of them are particularly interesting or sympathetic. They’re all just boring people with little motivation for what they’re doing. Kate Hudson’s character in particular seems weird; she’s a hospice nurse who’s told to not go into the attic, but of course she does. Normally we’d at least have some push- some reason that her character wanted to go investigate, but in this film it’s seems to be simply curiosity.
There were some cool locations, though the cinematography didn’t exactly lend itself to those locations. Most of the time, I felt that the locations and sets were the creepiest parts of the film, but we’re never really given a chance to feel the tension they add, because the director is so quick to anticipate the next jump scare. As far as production design, this movie looked pretty cool- it had some genuinely creepy moments and images, but the way it was shown to us didn’t let us absorb it at all. Some of the best creepy parts come with the flashbacks, where we’re shown old voodoo rituals- the problem is the editing in these parts is really weird. In particular, the flashbacks flip-flop from black and white to color without reason. I understand changing color palette to show a different time period, what I don’t understand is flitting back and forth between the two in the same timeline for no purpose whatsoever.
I think my biggest problem with this movie was just the pacing and the overall story structure. This movie just feels like something we’ve seen a thousand times before. If you’ve watched enough horror movies, you could probably close your eyes and tell, beat by beat, what is going to happen. If you’ve seen any haunted house movies ever, you can tell the first half of the film is primarily bumps and jump scares, followed by the real spooky stuff near the end. The script makes no attempt to break the formulaic mold, and as a result it feels rather dreary. It’s as if you could anticipate when the scares were going to happen and what level of intensity it would be by the time the scare happened. When we reach the climax and a twist is revealed, I had already grown bored with the story, and had wished it over a while ago.
This film is really nothing special. It’s just another quick horror movie the studios could pump out for a quick buck. There isn’t much inspiration in the script, nor are there stellar performances, or fascinating cinematic maneuvers. This is just another movie that you can probably already find in the dollar bin of your local gas station. There’s nothing remarkably terrible about this film either; it just feels perfectly middle of the road, and sometimes, that can be more frustrating than a terrible movie. At least with terrible movies, I feel some kind of emotion- sometimes laughter at the horrid attempts at filmmaking, other times just utter disbelief- but with films like this, I feel nothing at all. It had been years since I’d seen this movie, and it will probably be years before I think of it again.
This is part of our 31 Nights of Thrills Series. Not all of the movies we review for this series will be strictly horror, but all will have something to do with the spirit of things spooky or scary. If you like those types of movies, be sure to check back throughout the month of October!
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