Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

"There are the bones here of a fantastic twisty little thriller but sadly they are not very successfully fleshed out."

If there's one situation in which people routinely expect the unexpected, it's when they're bringing home a new baby. Anyone who's paid attention knows they're going to be overwhelmed and that there will be times when they feel they just can't cope. They know that they'll struggle to get enough sleep, that they'll be overemotional and, if they've just given birth, that they may experience mood swings. The question is, how can people in that situation tell if something more serious is going wrong - for instance, if someone or something has entered their home and is threatening the child?

A woman (Jane Rowen) whose name we never know lives in a house where she's sure something is wrong. In classic horror style, she keeps seeing shadows out of the corner of her eyes. Strange images seem to flit across the screen of the baby monitor. Yet when she asks her husband (Michael Gazin) to investigate, he can find no trace of an intruder. Is she losing it? that's an uncomfortable situation to be in with an infant to protect - but not, perhaps, quite as uncomfortable as it becomes when he tells her he thinks her too has seen something and she has to ask herself if he's telling the truth or if he could be manipulating her for his own ends and setting up the whole thing.

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There are the bones here of a fantastic twisty little thriller but sadly they are not very successfully fleshed out. Neither actor has much presence so we never feel the emotional connection that we should. A potentially effective set - one of those under-furnished modern US homes with lots of glass for sinister presences to peek in through - is never properly exploited. Director Stephen Portland makes an effort with his framing but is let down by scrappy editing and a weak score. The lighting is very effective in conveying the impression that one has been awake for too long (and, indeed, that might be the best state to watch this in) but beyond this it does nothing to add to the atmosphere.

There's an unfortunate slip at the end where a lack of scientific knowledge results in a statement being made about what's happening that is simply laughable. One hopes most viewers will miss it because this part of the film is otherwise well structured. Portland's decision to keep things simple is the film's greatest strength, helping to generate a sense of menace, create an effective antagonist and give the story a folkloric dimension that adds to its power. Working with an obviously small budget, he succeeds in demonstrating that he has some skill - just not enough to make many people want to sit through 86 minutes of a film that would have worked better as a short.

Reviewed on: 28 Feb 2019
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A man and woman are struggling to adjust to life with their new baby. But their situation begins to unravel when they suspect a menacing stranger could be lurking, watching, even entering their home.

Director: Stephen Portland

Writer: Stephen Portland

Starring: Michael Gazin, Jane Rowen, Joel Clark Ackerman

Year: 2018

Runtime: 86 minutes

Country: US


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