Our House


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Our House
"Director Anthony Scott Burns delivers some real chills but it's the positive aspect of the film, the sense that there's still room for joy in these difficult lives, that makes them so potent."

If you come into this film with little knowledge of physics, the work being done by its central protagonist might sound like pure science fiction. In fact, the concept of providing wireless electricity is a long established one, popularised by Nikola Tesla in the 1890s and realised in practice in a number of experiments, the challenges being to do it over a usefully wide area and to do it safely. Safety concerns are, by and large, centred around things like heart arrhythmia. Though some researchers claim that there is a correlation between exposure to strong electromagnetic fields and perceived supernatural experiences, they are not generally worried about ghosts.

This may not be very reassuring to Ethan (Thomas Mann), who is undertaking his experiments in what one might call a charged situation. Following the sudden deaths of his parents in a car accident, he has become abruptly responsible for looking after his two young siblings, and has consequently shifted his work from the laboratory into his garage. Also working in a hardware store to provide the family with some income, he's doing a good job of juggling his various responsibilities, but it's understandable that his siblings don't see enough of him to feel confident about sharing straight away when strange things start to happen. By the time he hears about it, Becca (Kate Moyer) has been holding conversations with their mother for some time, and Matt (Percy Hynes White) has also been seeing things - but only when the machine in the garage is switched on.

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Our House is, in essence, a fairly standard ghost story, with the usual doubts emerging about exactly who or what it is that Becca has become so close to - especially when she starts talking about having a new friend - but its has some smart touches and, importantly, it gives us characters we can care about. They feel like a real family and the complexity of their relationships, occasioned by what they've already experienced, means that there's a lot going on in the film before we get to the supernatural part. This, in its turn, meshes well with the established drama, which makes it easier to accept because its emotional impact feels natural. Director Anthony Scott Burns delivers some real chills but it's the positive aspect of the film, the sense that there's still room for joy in these difficult lives, that makes them so potent.

Shot with an eye for detail and a good understanding of the subjects it's dealing with, the film uses the established language of the ghost story to its advantage by adding a scientific sheen of plausibility and only requiring viewers to accept more unlikely elements towards the end, once it has already established a grip. The dénouement is perhaps a little too run of the mill but, because we have invested in the characters, it's still scary. There are some pacing problems in the final scenes and subplots are tidied up rather abruptly, but these are minor considerations in an otherwise well structured film.

With strong performances from all three leads and great chemistry between them, Our House breathes new life into old horror tropes. Its screening at this year's Fantasia film festival serves as a reminder that no matter how many new things are brought to the table, a well told tale will always serve you well.

Reviewed on: 24 Jul 2018
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Our House packshot
A young physicist experimenting with the principle of wireless electricity accidentally makes way for something from elsewhere to interact with our world - but is it a force for good or for evil?

Director: Anthony Scott Burns

Writer: Matt Osterman, Nathan Parker

Starring: Thomas Mann, Kate Moyer, Percy Hynes White, Nicola Peltz, Robert B Kennedy, Xavier de Guzman

Year: 2018

Runtime: 90 minutes

Country: Canada, Germany, US

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