“I don’t know how to choose work that illuminates what my life is about. I don’t know what my life is about and don’t examine it. My life will define itself as I live it. The movies will define themselves as I make them. As long as the theme is something I care about at the moment, it’s enough for me to start work. Maybe work itself is what my life is about.”
In this unremittingly grim horror movie from Bryan Bertino (The Strangers), brother and sister Michael and Louise (Michael Abbot and Marin Ireland), estranged from each other in adulthood, return to their parent’s farm in rural Texas to be with their deathly ill father despite their mother insisting that they shouldn’t come. Shortly after they arrive, while their dad lies incapacitated in bed, Michael and Louise are blindsided by an unexpected and horrifying tragedy, which leads them to realize that beyond the winds and wolves that howl outside at night, something else, be it a malevolent spirit or the devil himself, is also there on the farm with them. It merely taunts them at first, as evil forces in horror movies usually do—doors creak open, light switches flip on their own—but the taunts escalate into vicious torments that threaten to drive Michael and Louise over the edge.
Bertino delivers a handful of well-mounted scares and some startling scenes of gore, but he’s also intensely averse to levity, and the unvarying tone becomes a little monotonous. Moreover, neither Michael nor Louise are all that intriguingly developed, which undermines the film’s sub-textual interest in the siblings as they struggle to process their father’s impending death and that aforementioned tragedy. To be fair though, I might just be a bit burnt out on horror movies centered on metaphors for grief.