After quitting her job as an investment banker before the financial collapse, Jean (Natalie Skye) traveled the world and is attempting to write about her experiences. She moves into her friend’s family home while they’re away, trying to find a quiet place to work on her book. Instead of the peace and tranquility she’s searching for, she finds that the home is inhabited by a group of spirits whose afterlife is as confusing as Jean’s real life. Screening as part of the Female Eye Film Festival, The House sounds like a straight-up horror film, but don’t let the synopsis fool you. This film is anything but horror and builds into a great thriller as secrets are revealed and decisions must be made, for both the living and the dead.
Written and directed by Desiree Lim, the film starts out slowly, but quickly gains momentum as we learn more about the various characters in the film and the secrets they’re hiding from each other. There are also certain moments that viewers will not see coming that are so surprising it takes a minute to absorb them. While the film keeps the audience guessing about what will happen next, it also plays with the idea that nothing may be real at all. Jean is on various medications and her friend asks her if she’s seen her psychiatrist lately, leading us to believe that the events may all be in her head. Later in the film, there are suggestions that things may be even more strange than we first believed. This keeps the film moving along at a quick pace, and makes sure that viewers never know what to expect.
The film takes place almost entirely in the house that Jean is living in, and it’s one of the most gorgeous parts of the film. Set in Vancouver, the huge house is wrapped in windows that reveal the beautiful forest background. Inside, mirrors and glass are used to perfect effect, creating strange shots and layers that add to the mysterious nature of the film. The way the home is used to set up certain angles or camera shots causes it to become another character in the film. There are times when it seems like the house is watching Jean along with us.
While much of the film focuses on the thriller aspect, themes of forgiveness and being true to yourself find their way in towards the end, giving the film a touch of heartbreak. It works well with the secrets that are revealed throughout though, and it helps to create some very well defined characters. It’s quite the emotional roller coaster, ranging from nervous fear, to anger, to happiness, as we follow the characters journey. The only real problem with the film are some connections between characters that are introduced, but then forgotten. I’m not sure if they would have worked out, or helped the film in any way, but just the fact that they’re not explored takes viewers out of the film for a couple of moments.