14 November 2012

Clarky's Review: Stormhouse

I ended up seeing this film at the Edinburgh International Film Festival last weekend, and to be honest I went in knowing nothing about it. On the whole I was pleasantly surprised.

Set in an underground military base in 2002, before the Iraq war, the film focuses on "ghost whisperer" Hayley Sands and her contact with a supernatural entity that the army have captured.

The setting for the film is incredibly eerie, and the lighting and cinematography is fantastic for a low budget British film (just check out the Fast Romance trailer for how bad a low budget British film can look). The main room where the entity is housed is hideous and every time the characters moved into the room my entire body tensed up, and I would breathe a sigh of release when they came out.

At times the tension is unbearable and the sound design has a lot to do with this, and also provides numerous scares at times. In fact I probably haven't jumped so often at a film for a long time. Sure seeing the film at the cinema probably enhanced a number of the jumps, but it was still very effective. The pacing for the first half is also brilliant, with the action moving out of the "room" for just enough to give you a breather before the tension is ratcheted up again. Setting the entire film in the "room" would haven't have worked as the tension would be lost eventually and the film would have become stale.

Unfortunately the film loses its way in the last half hour when it turns out that entity has escaped. The film kicks it up a notch, unfortunately not in a good way. It becomes a lot more action based and a lot of the tension is lost as it is often obvious where the entity is. There are still some good scares, with the stand out scene being the scene in the medical room.

This scene also provides some of the best acting, and one of the best transformations. Unfortunately, not all of the acting is this good. There are some dodgy accents and when the man from Whitehall comes to visit I thought they would need to get a chainsaw for his death scene given how wooden he was. He was incredible, I can't remember seeing acting this bad for a while (even worse than some of the acting in Mothers Day - although this is a far superior film and genuinely terrifying at times).

The basketball scene is also so ridiculous that the film almost collapses under it, thankfully this is offset with a genuinely creepy notion, that I won't spoil. What I will say is that I felt that the film should have ended here, unfortunately another scene is tacked onto the end and it just didn't work for me, providing more questions than answers (and not in a good way).

A character shows up at the end, that in the muddled last half hour I thought had died (and who almost certainly should have), to provide one last scare. Unfortunately I just didn't feel this added anything to the film, and made me wonder why the entity had decided to torture the people who didn't know what had happened in the army base.

Although I have mentioned a lot of negatives above, I would recommend this film. When its good, it is very, very good and it builds up enough goodwill to survive the ridiculous climax. Definitely worth a watch in my opinion and I hope it gets a wider cinema release later this year.

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