Film Review: The House On Pine Street (2015)

“The House On Pine Street is a purposeful, slow burning film that has all the potential ingredients to be a taut, psychological/supernatural thriller…”

Brothers Aaron and Austin Keeling’s sophomore feature is a psychological drama dressed up in supernatural clothes. It centres on the post-emotional breakdown mother to be – Jennifer (Emily Goss – An Emotional Affair). She’s reluctantly left behind her go-getter life in Chicago to return to suburban Kansas — where she grew — and is having to rely again on her domineering mother for support in those early baby years. Unfortunately, the house she and her husband move into is haunted and Jennifer is the sole target of the paranormal activity.

The set-up of The House On Pine Street is considerate and purposeful. The flip side of that is that it will no doubt drag for the impatient genre fans as they wait for the first scare to finally show itself. Nevertheless, the evolution of the horror confronting Jennifer escalates in a steady, logical fashion while her unsympathetic husband and mother deny there’s anything to worry about. Doors slam or open themselves; items of furniture move. There are fleeting sightings of shadowy apparitions and brushes with doppelgangers of her husband. These on their own make for some neat horror set pieces, albeit nothing you’ve not seen before.

The claustrophobia of pregnant Jennifer, cooped up in an old, creaky house evokes Mia Farrow’s descent into madness during Rosemary’s Baby. Unfortunately, where the latter’s tension and distress was all about making sure Satan’s child could be born, no such conspiracy exists in The House On Pine Street — the husband and mother just aren’t cooking up more trouble for Jennifer, they’re just overtly uncaring and unsympathetic. This is intrinsically linked to an unexplored back-story from the Chicago years. At times the confrontational exchanges between mother and daughter, or husband and wife, to deny the existence of ghosts seem to forget she’s heavily pregnant at all — including Jennifer herself, who shows little concern for the unborn child’s well-being throughout. A single parent neighbour involves herself in Jennifer’s life long enough to explain she has twin daughters that are elected mutes — they can speak, but choose not to. This whole side bar has no bearing on Jennifer’s ability to survive what’s in her home, nor any repercussions to make matters worse.

Regardless, Emily Goss is fantastic and captivating. Her portrayal of a damaged woman fighting herself, and her motherly instincts to flee, while on the brink of giving birth is startling, but the story lets her down. It starts with her on a low and only succeeds in dragging her down further. Again, referring to Polanski’s classic, Farrow is full of hope for the future at the start of Rosemary’s Baby and descends into the hopeless reality that she was just a pawn in an evil Faustian pact.

The House On Pine Street is a purposeful, slow burning film that has all the potential ingredients to be a taut, psychological/supernatural thriller a la Jennifer Kent’s The Babadook . Where Kent twisted the never ending grieving for a widow unable to love her dysfunctional son with a spectre who lives in the pages of haunted children’s book, the Keeling brother’s two concepts of unwanted pregnancy and haunted house are loosely interdependent, but in the denouement are shown to be unconnected. Jennifer’s backstory isn’t fleshed out enough to make for a decent drama; and the entity or ghost that is haunting her isn’t convincingly related to what’s going on in her head as she fast approaches her due date. It’s just straight forward, unexplainable scares. There are some genuinely creepy moments — a skinny arm that appears in the crawlspace springs to mind — but for a knowing horror crowd they’ll see the tension and scares being constantly eroded by needless domesticity and strife that isn’t helping them to understand the haunted house.



Directors: Aaron Keeling, Austin Keeling
Starring: Emily Goss, Taylor Bottles, Cathy Barnett
Certificate: 18
Release date: DVD 1 February 2016 (UK)

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