The Movie Waffler New Release Review (DVD/VOD) - ABBEY GRACE | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review (DVD/VOD) - ABBEY GRACE

Returning to her childhood home to look after her brother, a woman encounters a series of mysterious incidents.

Review by Sue Finn (@fountainclown)

Directed by: Stephen Durham

Starring: Debbie Sheridan, Jacob Hobbs, Amber Gallaway, Semi Anthony

A few of the jump scares land nicely and there is a welcome sense of eeriness to some of the proceedings, but if you've been searching for something that will resonate and give you nightmares it's best to keep looking.

After the recent death of their mother, sister Stacey (Debbie Sheridan) moves back into the rural home she was raised in, to care for her troubled brother Ben (Jacob Hobbs).

She brings her companionable dog Duke with her and sets about caring for her grown brother, who is a ‘shut-in’ suffering with severe Obsessive Compulsive Disorder – a legacy from their abusive childhoods.

When Duke digs up an old tin box in the woods, things start to go awry in all manner of spooky ways, but it takes quite a few ‘incidences’ to convince them the problem may be a ghostly one. In the meantime Stacey invites her best friend, psychologist Bridget (Amber Gallaway), to the house to try and start Ben on the road to managing his mental health issues and begin a ‘real life’; of course she is now also the love interest as, unethical and frankly unbelievable it may be, an apparent mutual attraction is there (absent of any on-screen chemistry mind you).

Once things amp up to the point where they can ignore it no longer, Bridget invites her ‘spiritualist’ friend to the house to figure out just what’s happening. Meanwhile Stacey seems to have taken to staring blankly at walls and mumbling mono-tonally, adopting a strange limp reminiscent of the child Abbey Grace, who possibly died in the house many years before – could she be possessed?

Opening with a weak and disjointed intro, Abbey Grace starts low and ends up somewhere in the middle. It has a serviceable script with some nice twists, believable effects, some unexpected moments and one of the best canine performances I've ever seen.

Another strength is the fact that characters behave like real people; whether escaping an attacker in clever ways, being snippy with each other as siblings can be, or bonding, the relationships are well actualised and a history between the principles is felt.

The explanation for all the trouble, when it finally arrives, is actually satisfying and ties it all together nicely. I also enjoyed the fact that the bond between a dog and his owner is treated as an equally important relationship and is not forgotten in the rush to a conclusion – that sort of awareness in story telling gives a movie texture and is something this film could use more of.

The script is a bit of a shambles and needs more focus. As it touches on so many themes I am even now unsure what horror sub-genre it would fit into – Possession? Ghost? Creepy child?

It would also benefit from slightly more back-story, and from eliminating the ‘therapist girlfriend’ character, as she is one of the least convincing psychologists ever put to film and adds little to the film. Perhaps they could expand on the spiritualist's role and give him more to work with, as he is only briefly on film and therefore almost a throw away character (though props for casting against type here; instead of the usual older Caucasian we instead are treated to a young African man).

Unfortunately the acting is almost as wooden as the house.

Debbie Sheridan, who has glimmers of a breezy believability throughout a fairly luke-warm performance, plays Stacey. She is also the casting director, which may explain why the entire cast is not particularly convincing.

As the vaguely-realised spiritualist, Semi Anthony has great presence but needs to work on relaxing on film; and Amber Gallaway as Bridget is woefully miscast and fails to have any impact in her underwritten role.

It seems director Stephen Durham (who co-wrote this film with David Dittlinger) feels OCD is not quite enough of a hindrance as the script saddles the character Ben with not just one psychological disorder but two as his agoraphobia rounds out his afflictions.. a disorder already mined to much better effect in 1995's Copycat. Actor Jacob Hobbs is regrettably not up to the challenge set here, choosing to express these conditions by slinking about the house with slumping shoulders and tentative speech – affectations and not particularly persuasive I'm afraid.

The direction is just fine and some shots are pleasantly composed but the sets and exterior work feel rather flat and washed out, which is a shame considering the potential richness of the Midwestern location.

A few of the jump scares land nicely and there is a welcome sense of eeriness to some of the proceedings, but if you've been searching for something that will resonate and give you nightmares it's best to keep looking.

Abbey Grace is on VOD now and DVD December 6th.