Combustible Celluloid
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With: Ruth Wilson, Paula Prentiss, Bob Balaban, Lucy Boynton, Brad Milne, Daniel Chichagov, Erin Boyes, James Perkins, Beatrix Perkins
Written by: Oz Perkins
Directed by: Oz Perkins
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 89
Date: 10/28/2016

I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House (2016)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Pretty Polly

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

I finally caught up with Oz Perkins's I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House (2016) — a Netflix original movie that premiered last Halloween — and it caught me off guard. It's truly unlike any other thriller or ghost story that I have ever seen, though whether that's a good thing or a bad thing will be up to each individual viewer. Lily (Ruth Wilson) plays a care provider for an elderly horror fiction author, Iris Blum (Paula Prentiss, a onetime beauty known for Man's Favorite Sport?; The Parallax View, and The Stepford Wives). The house is eerily quiet and time passes without much seeming to change. Lily isn't able to read Ms. Blum's books (she scares too easily), though she is concerned with a patch of mold growing on one wall, and wonders why Ms. Blum insists on calling her "Polly."

Perkins directs with dreamy softness, with the edges of the frame capable of melting into just about any other image, or space, or time. It's an ethereal, dreamlike, malleable movie, almost in the experimental vein, unconcerned with a linear explanation of events. Ghosts are in charge here. There are no jerky camera moves, loud noises, or jump-scares, although there are some hair-raising moments of quiet anxiety. Bob Balaban plays the estate manager who provides some useful information, as well as some quietly unsettling line readings. Director Perkins is the son of Psycho star Anthony Perkins, and he clearly picked up a thing or two from his father's career.

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