By David Dent
Jude S. Walko’s debut feature, about a young American girl summoned to an ancient castle, the home of her ancestors, is best seen as a modern update of a gothic fairy tale.
Happy go lucky Lucy is sent to northern France to attend the funeral of a distant relative; when she arrives she meets the local Vicar (Walko) and a starchy housekeeper, and gets a brusque welcome from both – stick to the lower floors, no guests, that kind of thing. The arrival of a local insurance salesman, who may know more than he’s letting on, completes the weird household.
Gradually Lucy’s happy selfie-based demeanour is knocked out of her by a deepening gloom in her new home; a strange little girl is seen in the woods, who may or may not be a ghost; and, while exploring upstairs, she finds evidence that the castle had previously been used in ritual magic – even uncovering a book of witchcraft practices.
Pudgy Jean- Pierre, the local gravedigger, seems to be her only friend, but Lucy begins to feel more and more a prisoner; and when she loses her way home one evening, after getting drunk in a bar, she encounters a strange woman occupying a seemingly abandoned cottage, who warns Lucy of her fate.
Now this movie really shouldn’t work – apart from a couple of profanities, it’s strictly Sunday teatime stuff. The acting is rather pedestrian, and the whole thing seems terribly naïve. But therein lies its success. It’s totally out of step with most modern horror/supernatural films. It’s languid, beautifully filmed and very quaintly old fashioned. It takes quite a leap of faith to like it but like it I did – and a lot of its success is down to Sam Valentine as Lucy who does a really good job and carried the whole movie. Admittedly Dean Cain as Abel Baddon, the insurance guy (yes that Dean Cain) looks bemused throughout, but at least he got an all-expenses paid holiday to France.