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New Release Review - THE HAUNTING OF RADCLIFFE HOUSE (DVD)

A family encounters a supernatural threat while renovating an old mansion.

Review by Jason Abbey

Directed by: Nick Willing

Starring: Olivia Williams, Matthew Modine, Antonia Clarke, Adam Thomas Wright, Richard Dillane




"Drably shot, competently acted and with not one iota of wit and invention, even the most timid of horror fans will find nothing to curdle the blood here."


The ghost story is a deceptively difficult beast to pull off; relying on mood and performance to develop that mounting sense of dread has been a stumbling block for neophyte and experienced directors alike. Here, director Nick Willing certainly has two leads who if not box office draws can certainly hold the screen, and has a location in Yorkshire that can be both beautiful and foreboding in equal measure. It is therefore sad to report that with a structure so sound, he makes an absolute pig’s ear of it.
A film can be hackneyed and derivative as all hell and still work, but Willing melds together elements of The Shining, The Others and The Haunting with a soupcon of Dennis Wheatley without raising the hackles and no providing real insight beyond the surface trappings of the genre. Meg (Williams) has come to renovate the titular manor for an unseen rock star, with her two kids Penny (Clarke) and Harper (Wright) and husband Alec (Modine) in tow. That there are dark secrets to unearth goes without saying; whether or not you will care by the end is another matter.
The house should be the central chilling character. Think gothic mansion or twisted evil manor house or the sinister eyes of the abode from The Amityville Horror. There is no sense of spatial awareness, rooms seem to exist unconnected (and not in a weirdly Lovecraftian way), and there is no sense of the necrosis that lies in the foundations of the best haunted houses; here there are no chills or anything remotely threatening. There is a lack of focus here in all departments. Should the house be the focus of the threat? Why is Matthew Modine acting so distant and bewitched (the only spirit he appears to be channelling is Bruce Forsythe)? Who is the bone cracking ghost that appears to Penny? Is she friend or foe?
The usually reliable Modine is a prozac version of Jack Torrance whose scary stock in trade seems to be a bleeding finger and unenthusiastic sexual assault. Williams is too cold and aloof, unable to channel the fragility needed for this type of hokum. The heavy lifting is left to the kids, who do a creditable job of acting like they should be scared.
Willing should be at least given a modicum of praise for avoiding cheap jumps, but he has nothing in his armoury to replace it with, save the contorted ghost figure that Japanese cinema has been trotting out for years, and an annoying stretched screen visual effect that looks like someone pressed the wrong setting on some cheap editing software.
A mosaic on the floor hints at a full on demonic climax that sadly never appears, unless you count the satanic offspring of Herbie the Disney Volkswagen offering lifts to unwilling children. In the end it’s a bit of a dull affair. Drably shot, competently acted and with not one iota of wit and invention, even the most timid of horror fans will find nothing to curdle the blood here.



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