I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House is creepy, but frustratingly slow
Emphasising eerie set design and pervasive dread over loud noises and gore, Osgood “Son of Norman Bates” Perkins establishes himself as one of the most singular visions in modern horror with the stubbornly slow yet undeniably effective I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House.
Starring Ruth Wilson (Alice Morgan in Luther) as a meek live-in nurse to an elderly horror writer, I Am the Pretty Thing… is as far from mainstream horror as it’s possible to get. Opening with beautifully written-and-performed narration (which carries on all the way through) and lingering, drawn out images of the titular ghost , Perkins spends most of the film’s 90-minute runtime focusing on large, dimly lit rooms and unnerving dialogue without ever creating an intriguing narrative. The result feels a little confused; caught between making an Gothic visual poem and a slow burning thriller, Perkins never quite excels at either. I Am the Pretty Thing… has plenty of creepy imagery, but never comes to life.
While Wilson does a fine job with her underwritten character, and brings Perkins’ literary voiceover to life perfectly (“Three days ago I turned 28 years old. I will never be 29” sends shiver down your spine), the film isn’t interested in characters. Accompanied by Elvis Perkins’ score, which seems innocuous until it burrows into your skin, I Am the Pretty Thing… is sinister in a way few filmmakers have ever managed. In the small hours of the morning, long after the film was over, it wasn’t a particular image that stayed with me; it was the ambience, a quiet feeling of fear lodged in the deep recesses of my mind.
Though I Am the Pretty Thing… is too slow-burning without ever reaching a satisfying crescendo, there are moments within that suggest Osgood Perkins is one to watch. With a lovely narration, gorgeous designs, and an atmosphere of total unease, the film is destined to find fans in those who prefer their horror ambiguous and uneasy. It’s a shame the narrative is even attempted; next time, Osgood should put 100% of his energy into scaring us.
By Harry J. Ford
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