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Sunday, 24 January 2016

The House on Pine Street (Second Sight Films)

Title: The House On Pine Street 

Cert: 15

Audio: Dolby Digital Stereo 2.0

Release Date: 1 February 2016 

RRP: £14.99

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 / 16:9

Running time: 108 mins approx.

I don't believe in ghosts and I certainly don't believe in haunted buildings - be they houses, mansions, castles, ships or local corner shops. It is all superstitious nonsense built upon a human psychological need that we all have to add complex meaning to ordinary events. These complexities of cognitive desire to finds patterns in otherwise simple occurrences manifest themselves in various formats; such as some of those weird and wonderful contrived conspiracy theories or the age-old the manifestation of supernatural apparitions. 

I did once have a friend (no seriously, I did once have a friend) who swore that her basement was haunted by the ghost. This particular apparition was of a woman who had been punished by death for being 'overly generous with her affections' towards many in the local male population. Now THAT'S the type of ghost I would like to have been haunted by. Alas, as much as I ventured into that basement to try and see this nymphomaniac ghost she never appeared, even if it was only to give me a cheeky wink of the eye.

No, I don't believe in ghosts, but I still bloody well adore a good ghost or haunted house movie - and before I go any further let me say this, The House On Pine Street is a damn good haunted house film.

The fact, that it is so good, on one level may be somewhat surprising - and I don't mean in relation to the usual indie horror restrictions on budget and crew. No it is surprisingly good when one takes into account the the explicit nods and winks that the filmmakers have made to a number traditional haunted house themes (more of which I will mention little later), but what they have achieved with more than a confident aplomb is to turn some of those themes well and truly on their head.

The result is to provide a fresh and lively treatment of a familiar narrative of young family meet house, young family love house, house though hates family, house threatens family, only one member of family knows house hates them, rest of family don't believe her, house and family member have death match face-off. Ahh, we've all been there.

Have a look of the synopsis to see what I mean;

"After an unexpected mental breakdown, seven month pregnant Jennifer Branagan (Emily Goss  - An Emotional Affair) reluctantly returns to her hometown in Kansas with her husband Luke for the arrival of their baby. Struggling to cope with fears of motherhood, a strained relationship with her husband and the presence of an overbearing mother, Meredith, Jennifer is losing control of her life. 

But what begins with objects moving behind her back and unexplained knocking sounds, soon escalates into  something far more sinister and threatening. Jennifer fears the house is haunted yet alone in her convictions, she is forced to question her own sanity. Is she losing her mind, or is there a dark entity within the house that  is all too real? "

This could easily have been a painting-by-the-numbers haunted house tale. You know, the one featuring a weak whimpering woman who would rather shriek with unburdened terror at the first bump in the night, or whisper in the basement rather than jettison the cliched and boring two dimensional constraints imposed by traditional horror lore.

In The House on Pine Street we have a main female lead character (Jennifer) that completely rejects the formulaic scream queen cliche by giving us a genuinely authentic and textured character rarely seen in horror. 

Credit has to be given in no small measure to the very lovely Emily Goss, who skilfully brings a wholly believable and sympathetic portrayal of a woman with a troubled and traumatic past. In turn she provides the audience with a deeply complex character full of the inconsistencies and imperfections that we all indeed share. She clearly despises her domineering mother (a lovely performance from Cathy Barnet) and often uses nothing more than a flicker of the eyes to show just how she belittled she feels simply by her mother's bullying presence. If that wasn't enough Jenny has also has clearly reluctantly moved back to Kansas and also seems rather less than delighted at being pregnant - much to the ignorance of her unknowing but seemingly well intentioned husband. Goss's performance in highlighting the vulnerability and dimensions of a character that refuses to bow down and whimper as she tries to make sense of what is happening to her is to be commended.

* Disclaimer: The rumour that I have been even more glowing in praise of Emily's performance because she liked and responded to one of my tweets the other night is nothing more than mischievous and libellous. It will be dealt with my team of lawyers as soon as my other restraining orders issues are dealt with. 

It is clear to see that the makers of The House on Pine Street, Aaron and Austin Keeling proudly wear their knowledge and inspirations of supernatural horror lore on their collective sleeves. Once again this could have resulted in nothing more than a cliched hotchpotch of familiar horror sub-themes. Yes we do have some old horror chums here such as the jaded Psychic, the faithful friend, the nice but dim husband and the domineering mother. However the filmmakers confidently avoid falling into to tried and tested horror tropes by turning some of those themes inside out. Instead, by employing some clever techniques of lighting and editing they succeed in constantly keeping the viewer on their toes. By forcing the lead character to increasingly question her own sanity and paranoia means that we too are never truly certain of what we are seeing.

In my opinion far too many contemporary horror films pander to the maxim of explaining all to the audience, often in the very first act. While this may please the mainstream film companies and their obsession with bland focus groups and audience feedback who want everything nicely tied up with a pretty red resolution ribbon, it doesn't please me. So it's refreshing to see filmmakers such as the Keelings avoid such cop outs and not resorting to seeking safe refuge in an over cooked  CGI experience rather than producing genuine chills.

Be very clear, The House on Pine Street is a genuinely scary film. I will as usual try to avoid spoilers at all costs but it's safe to say that there are a number of scenes that will provide any self-respecting chill seeker with their adrenaline fix. The one scene where Jenny takes a shower (hey, clear your dirty minds!) is especially creepily effective.

But don't just take my word for it because I'm not the only one singing this films praises.  For example it was the winner of Best Feature Film at Kansas International Film Festival and New Orleans Horror Film Festival and starring  Emily Goss, winner of Best Actress at Blue Whiskey Independent Film Festival and Fargo Film Festival, this chilling tale of a disturbed dwelling with a ghostly lore makes its debut as download to own from 25 January 2016 and DVD and VOD 1 February 2016.

Aaron and Austin Keeling’s tauntingly sinister new feature – The House On Pine Street wreaks havoc on an expectant young couple as they move into an eerily ominous house. This highly acclaimed psychological thriller comes to DVD and digital; thanks to Second Sight Films. 

Fear what you cannot see in The House On Pine Street

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