Offbeat Movies

I love movies that are quirky and well made and well acted. Here you will find reviews of movies you may not have heard of (I will try to avoid commercial successes, but some of them are good) that caught my attention because they are thought-provoking, have interesting story lines, unique characters, and good acting.

Friday, March 24, 2017

I am the Pretty Thing that Lives in the House

I am the Pretty Thing that Lives in the House is a movie in which nothing happens.

Hospice nurse, Lily Saylor (Ruth Wilson), moves into a large, sunny house in Maine--”the house at the end of Teacup Road”--to care for an elderly writer who had lost her mind, but is really no trouble as a patient. Teacup Road? What could be scary about that?

What sets you up is the incongruity of the opening scene, and many scenes that follow. We begin with a monologue in which Lily solemnly talks about ghosts, and we see a pretty woman in Victorian dress walking slowly backwards across the screen in the dark. Wilson has great delivery for the line (about ghosts), “this is how they rot.”

When Lily arrives at the house at the end of Teacup Road, on a July day the house is clean and sunny and not the least bit frightening, but the man who brings her (lawyer?) doesn’t seem to want to go any farther into the house than the front door. The patient, someone who should clearly not be left alone, is alone in the house.

Reality in this movie, is just off-kilter enough not to be trusted. Things molder and decay, including (briefly) the heroine’s arms. There's an inconsistency with the dates. She arrives in July at one point mentions 11 months passing, but the lawyer says he is happy all the vacation people are leaving (implying it’s late August). Time does not seem to pass in this story. The heroine makes a telephone call that is interrupted by the ghost yanking the cord out of her hand. More disturbing than that is that our heroine picks up the phone and seems to begin the conversation over again with a slight variation, as if she is play-acting the call. You wonder if there is really anyone on the other end of the line.

Lily’s nervousness will set you on edge too. She admits that she is timid, too scared to read the horror novels her author-patient once wrote. She moves through the house, arms and sweater wrapped around herself, as if she is expecting a bogey man to jump out at any minute.

This is an understated horror that doesn’t rely on gore or monsters to frighten, and as such the little things are magnified. The ghost, Polly, is very pretty, but her body is put together wrong. Mold on a wall is ominous, as is the repeated song on an audio cassette playing, at odd times, in the patient’s room. The little incongruities add up to a surreal experience.

If you have a hard time making sense of all of it, or reconstructing the timeline of exactly what happened, it is because Lily, our narrator, has the same problem. Go back to the beginning and listen to her opening monologue again, and you will understand why.


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