The Haunting of Radcliffe House, 2014.
Directed by Nick Willing.
Starring Olivia Williams, Matthew Modine, Antonia Clarke, Steve Oram, Jonathan Jaynes, Adam Thomas Wright and Rebecca Calder.
A family move into an old house on the Yorkshire moors and begin to fall under its spell.
Within the first 10 minutes of The Haunting of Radcliffe House (a.k.a. Altar, which is a much less foreboding title) it would take somebody who had lived in a cave all of their life not to notice the three obvious plot points lifted from other (better) horror movies, and if you’ve never seen Hellraiser, The Shining or The Amityville Horror then a) what are you doing with your life and b) you’d be better off watching those than you would this film. That is because The Haunting of Radcliffe House does not have an original thought or idea contained within its paper-thin script or uninspiring direction, and considering the talent involved and how saturated the supernatural horror film market is at the moment it’s not unreasonable to have expected a little more.
The plot goes like this – couple with children move into old mansion with a history, father gets possessed by ghost of crazy old owner, mother discovers an underground altar, kids run about and scream, an ‘expert’ comes to visit and sees something terrible, big chase and if you’ve seen The Amityville Horror then you’ve seen the final 10 minutes of this.
Olivia Williams (Sabotage) and a very gaunt Matthew Modine (Full Metal Jacket) play Meg and Alec Hamilton, the couple in question, and, quite frankly, they’re terrible. To be fair, what they have to work with is painfully flat and doesn’t leave a lot of room for interpretation but actors of their abilities should be able to lift the script a bit instead of sinking into it and seemingly just cashing a paycheck. Not quite sure what role the children play in the story as they just seem to be there without ever getting too involved and Steve Oram (Sightseers) is wasted as the ‘ghost whisperer’ that is called in to see what is going on and warns the family as to what they’re in for. Again, nothing that hasn’t been done before several dozen times and it offers up no surprises or nothing you can’t see coming a mile off, and the same goes for the filming style which, while the camera does move around quite a bit for what is usually a very static style of storytelling, does pinch several stylistic flurries from many other sources, namely the dream-like visuals used in films like Hammer’s The Plague of the Zombies and the angled close-ups of certain characters that tell us they’re up to no good, a visual cue that may work in naff comedies but looks too goofy for a film like this. The CGI effects are also pretty bad, giving the film the look of a cheap TV drama that somebody has drawn over, and there’s not really a key moment – a pea-soup vomit or a “Here’s Johnny!” – that makes you pay attention or gives the story a push. It just trundles along, making 88 minutes feel like three hours and never even attempting anything more frightening than suggesting something once happened in the house and Matthew Modine putting on a daft voice.
On a personal note, I watched this film with my wife and after I had name-checked a handful of other movies that this film had lifted ideas from (the aforementioned Hellraiser, The Shining, The Amityville Horror plus The Exorcist, Poltergeist, The Omen, The Others and any Hammer film from the mid-1960s) my wife said “But this is meant for people like me, who don’t know all of those films”. Perhaps that is true, but if the best endorsement for a film is that you might like it if you don’t know any better then there’s not really a lot else you can say about it.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ / Movie: ★ ★