US 2012, 104m, Horrorshow/Shooting Creek Films
DVD: Safecracker Pictures (UK), Cert 18
Maggie (Rachel Marie Lewis) and Chris (Christian Oliver) are a young couple who leave their home in the city following a personal tragedy. Seeking to give their marriage a fresh start, they move into an isolated house in the country. However, the seemingly idyllic surroundings start to put Maggie's nerves on edge. When Chris leaves for several days as part of his new job, it only makes matters worse, particularly when Maggie keeps hearing the ringing of a telephone, despite there being no landline installed...
David Mun's directorial debut got some great responses at the London International Film Festival in October 2013, so I'm pleased to see it finally arrive on DVD in the UK. I'm also happy to say it didn't disappoint, although I will confess it was considerably different from what I was expecting from the trailer.
Blu de Golyer's screenplay focuses very much on the impact that isolation can have on the human psyche, and the monotony of Maggie's situation gets almost as uncomfortable for the viewer as it does for her. When she actually makes contact with her only neighbours, it comes as quite a relief although, without giving too much away, things aren't quite as straightforward as they might seem.
House Of Good And Evil won't be to everyone's taste - anyone looking for a shock-a-thon will be disappointed by the restrained and subtle approach, as well as the very gradual build-up towards the climax. The nearest comparison I can immediately think of, in both pacing and setting, is Dan Curtis' Burnt Offerings (1976) - I did at one point think this tale was going to take a similar route, before the denouement wrong footed me.
If you allow yourself to be drawn into the film's enclosed universe there is much to gently chill the spine, and the tension almost creeps up on you unawares. The solid central performance from Rachel Marie Lewis really helps to make it work. This is a pleasing debut from David Mun, who will be worth watching.
NOTE: You can read my October 2013 Q&A with David Mun here.