The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


Our House

Our House continues the 2018 trend started by A Quiet Place and Hereditary of horror movies that are as much about characters, emotions, and ideas as they are about scares. Director Scott Anthony Burns (who made the best segment in the anthology Holidays) balances the human element and the horror element perfectly, giving us a potent chiller that's also about something substantive.

Thomas Mann plays Ethan Lightman, a college student who, along with two friends, has invented a gizmo that creates wireless electricity. They can't quite get the thing to work, and progress is slowed when Ethan's parents are killed in a car accident, forcing him to leave girlfriend Hannah (Nicola Peltz) and go back home to care for his younger siblings, Matt (Percy Hynes White) and Becca (Kate Moyer). When he has a few free moments, he works on the thing. What Ethan doesn't initially realize is that, while the device isn't doing what he wants it to do, it is creating electric energy that allows spirits to manifest themselves.

The hook of Our House is that, once the machine's function is finally discovered, Matt and Becca believe that their deceased parents are trying to make contact. Ethan, on the other hand, senses the situation may be more complicated.

Our House has ghosts, paranormal phenomena, and moments designed to make you jump. It utilizes all those things skillfully, establishing an eerie atmosphere that makes you nervous about what might happen next. The way Burns films the device is creepy, too. Their machine is a box, on top of which is an ominous black triangle that glows on the sides as its spins. These various elements build to a conclusion that offers one or two genuine surprises the kind that cause you to hold your breath as you contemplate their implications for the characters.

Look beyond the scary stuff and you'll see that this is really a movie about a family grieving. Ethan has his work to bury himself in as a way of blocking out the pain. His siblings don't have as handy a distraction. They cling to the idea that re-connection with their parents might be possible. Our House asks whether communication from beyond the grave is possible and, if so, whether it would help or hurt.

The sadness running through this family is what makes the horror element so effective. Ethan, Matt, and Becca are vulnerable as can be. They no longer have their mother and father to turn to for advice or guidance. If their parents are, in fact, trying to contact them, it could be a form of emotional salvation. If it's not them, then certainly some evil force is taking advantage of that vulnerability. Burns does a good job of keeping you guessing as to what's really going on, eventually filling in all the details at the precise right moment to make a big impact.

Thomas Mann gives an exceptional performance, capturing how Ethan is struggling to hold himself together at the same time that he's trying to keep the kids from falling apart. The manner in which the actor conveys Ethan's complex feelings when he realizes what his machine is capable of is powerful.

Our House ingeniously uses horror elements to explore the theme of grief and the impact it has on a family. At the center, providing the tale's beating heart, is the very understandable human wish that there was some way to talk to loved ones after they've departed this earth. Making that the basis of the story gives Our House a punch that stings for a while after its over.

( 1/2 out of four)

Our House is rated PG-13 for terror and some thematic content. The running time is 1 hour and 30 minutes.

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