A young nurse gets a new job caring for an elderly horror author. The nurse, who is afraid of everything, is unfamiliar with the author’s work. This includes her most famous book about a woman named Polly. The nurse moves in with her charge to provide around the clock care. As time passes for the nurse living in the elderly woman’s home, it becomes more and more clear there may be someone (or something) else in the home with them.
This is the second film by writer/director Oz Perkins I have seen this year, the first being The Blackcoat’s Daughter. While I loved his previous film, this one left me feeling underwhelmed and unsatisfied. The essential premise is a nurse going to live with an elderly horror author to take care of her. The problem is that this nurse is terrified of everything. She can’t even get through the first chapter of one of the books the horror author wrote. On the first night living in the author’s house the nurse has a small experience with what may be a ghost, but then there aren’t any other happenings for almost a year. There is an interesting idea in this plot. The problem is that the story is underdeveloped, and the primary focus is on the house rather than the characters.
The main issue I have with this film is the writing. While the monologues are beautifully written and interesting, there is just too much dead space throughout the rest of the film. The only character that really has any lines is the nurse, which leaves a lot of time in between any speaking parts. It also means that the main character primarily talks to herself. The film ends up feeling one-dimensional and lacks any true depth to keep the audience interested. Perkins is known for leaving some aspects of his films ambiguous, which worked well in The Blackcoat’s Daughter, but in this film things were a bit too ambiguous. The “why” of what is happening is left unclear, and it felt like hints were scattered throughout the film that never came to a satisfying conclusion. This just adds to the somewhat empty feeling of the film.
One thing Perkins did better with was the style of the film. It felt unique in that much of the film consists of the inner monologue of the lead character. The film was very visually interesting, using light and shadows, as well as some beautiful blurred effects. The set of the house is also gorgeous. It often times feels like the house is its own character during the film, and it is actually one of the more well-developed aspects of the film. This unfortunately seemed to be where all the focus of the filmmaker’s efforts went. The film is quite stunning, but the lack of substance makes me wish this had been made as a short consisting of about thirty minutes as opposed to a feature length film.
Because there were so few speaking parts in the film it is very difficult for me to truly judge the acting. Ruth Wilson (The Affair, The Lone Ranger) starred as the nurse, Lily. I know Wilson is a good actress from her other work, but her performance in this role gave the impression that she didn’t put much effort into it. The way the character is written is partly the problem. The fact she is afraid of everything and spoke like an 80-year-old woman created a very unrealistic character. I couldn’t help but cringe when she said things like “Oh, heavens no.” The character is supposed to be in her late twenties, and as someone that is the same age it is hard to imagine a single person my age who speaks like that (no matter how timid they are). The highlight of Wilson’s performance is the monologue she recites at the beginning of the film, and that is also the highlight of the entire film.
As a whole I am vastly underwhelmed by I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House. It is stylish and beautiful, but lacked the substance to make it a complete story. The film is also plagued with unrealistic dialogue and underdeveloped characters. I know Perkins can do amazing work, so I look forward to seeing what he does in the future. This is just a bit of a stumble on his road to becoming a successful writer/directer.
OVERALL RATING: 4.5/10