I tend to go on a bit of an analog horror binge during this time of year. Usually, I stick with a series on YouTube, but I happened to see this movie in a Film Theory thumbnail and figured I’d give my two cents. Now I know this movie has been out for months and people have talked about it. However, nobody on this site has talked about it which means it’s still ripe for the picking by yours truly. I haven’t heard any theories on it yet as of writing this. Other than seeing a summary, I went into this completely blind.
Just to give a brief rundown, siblings Kaylee and Kevin find their dad missing one night, and supernatural hijinks ensue. I felt this was a real slow-burn kind of horror movie. There are some jump scares, but not many. Instead, it drapes you in a blanket of eeriness. While watching it, I got the same vibes as watching Sadako/Samara’s tape from the ring.
I didn’t see any reviews of the film before watching it, but I did see audience ratings, and this has to be the most dividing horror movie I’ve ever seen. It seems people either love it or don’t care for it and I think I get why. Just to compare, let’s bring up another slow-burn movie, Joker. People knew the character going in so they knew waiting for that buildup when he goes completely insane would be worth it. Not to spoil anything, but this movie doesn’t conclude with some grand finale or anything like that.
Maybe that disappointed some people, especially considering there isn’t much outright frightening imagery in this movie. It would be understandable to expect them to save it for the finale instead of what we got. For me, though, I thought the film worked well enough for what it was trying to do. Was it scary and not in an “Ooga Booga!” kind of way, but genuinely? Yeah, I’d say so.
The moments that got under my skin the most were what was not seen and instead heard. They do say children should be seen not heard (which I don’t agree with), but maybe that relates to the movie somehow. Either that or it’s me reading too deeply into the movie. Then again some dialogue does allude to this (specifically about obedience) so maybe there’s something to it. Whatever entity is pulling the strings in the movie is never shown.
We only see the effects of what it does. The first thing I thought of was some kind of demonic presence affecting the home that the dad ended up falling victim to. What helps instill fear while watching is the perspective since the main characters are little kids. For me, usually having a child potentially in danger in horror feels kind of cheap. There are only a few films I think use that plot point well beyond “it’s a child so automatically you should feel bad that something happened to them despite them having no character whatsoever”.
It’s different here, though, because you are seeing things from their perspective. I’ve mentioned in a past article there’s a difference between a character being stupid and not knowing any better. This would be an example of the latter. The kids in this movie are naive to the danger they are faced with and that acts as a fuel source for the dread fire. As to what’s causing all this I’m not entirely sure and I don’t think it gets outright shown other than a few hints.
It’s easy to chalk it up to being demonic when it could also be getting into extra-dimensional realms. Then again it is arguable those two things are not mutually exclusive. Whatever the entity is, the scariest thing about it to me is how it manipulates. I think at one point it mimicked one of the kids’ parents to lure them. Speaking of, a lot of things about the family dynamic were not entirely clear.
I know at some point one of the kids says they don’t want to talk about their mother. Whether she died or left I don’t recall being shown. Granted, I can be kind of slow sometimes so maybe there was a key piece of information I missed. Regardless, it does serve to further emphasize the siblings’ lack of security. Imagine being that young and having already lost your mother earlier in life, then finding your dad gone another night.
That might sound ideal if your parents aren’t or weren’t exactly great. For the sake of argument, however, let’s say this isn’t the case. Finding that they just vanished would be scary to any kid, paranormal causes or not. Going back to how the movie is good at showing a child’s perspective, another thing I thought this style of story did well is make me reminisce on how I reacted to horror growing up. When you’re little you have so much to learn.
Your imagination causes every creak in a settling house to instead be a monster slowly making its way to you. I think that may be why cartoons are featured so heavily in the story. At first, I thought it was purely for the juxtaposition of something innocent to something horrifying. As I’m writing this, I’m thinking about certain memories I had growing up, and I realize it could be something else to enhance making the viewer get back into that childhood mindset. After all, what did a lot of us do when we came across some horrifying piece of media when we were kids?
There are two outcomes to this. Either someone decided it wasn’t for them or they became fascinated by it. Which side I fell under should be clear. For the other, though the reaction would probably be to gravitate to something more comforting like say cartoons for instance. Once again, it’s a layer of security.
When someone gets older, logic diminishes those fears, at least most of them. Unfortunately, there’s a reason we can still be afraid. Sometimes, those creaks you hear aren’t merely the noises of a settling house. Sometimes it’s a predator that’s coming for you or it wants you to come to it.
The last subjects I’ll go over that I can think of that this movie explores are obedience and trust. I don’t want to get too into them, since it would force me to get into spoiler territory. Instead, I’ll ask a question. What do you do when defiance is met with a terrifying punishment and yet obedience grants you a horrifying result? In that situation, who can you trust?
If you haven’t seen this movie, I highly recommend it and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.