SPOILER ALERT: This review discusses the big twist(s) – though anyone who’s seen a horror film in the last 50 years will pretty much be able to guess them from reading the sleeve copy.
Sometimes, I wonder why filmmakers put such effort into turning out films that have been made over and over again. This competent 2014 Blumhouse production has a basic storyline that would have been old hat for a TV movie in the 70s, with the sole twist that the villain’s motive is lifted wholesale from a recent major French horror movie (which has itself been remade). Director Kevin Greutert did well by a couple of the later Saw sequels and the underrated Blumhouse production Jessabelle, but here gets stuck with a script by Lucas Sussman (who hasn’t had anything made since Below in 2002) and L.D. Goffigan that laboriously works through its familiar story while heavily signposting the big twist – that the ‘paranormal activity’ plaguing pregnant protag Eveleigh Maddox (Isla Fisher) in the isolated farmhouse where her distracted husband (Anson Mount) is trying to start a winery are premonitions, not a haunting. Various visions (and aural hallucinations) – a hooded figure, a knock at the door, a dropped gun, a bloody handprint, a bent wrought-iron bedstead, coins stood on end, broken bottles, even some shifted chairs – bother Eveleigh, who is neurotic after a car accident seen in the prologue leads to the death of a baby.
A whole lot of characters act in a dead-suspicious manner, starting with her impatient and unsympathetic husband (one of the most cliché-ridden roles in the horror handbook) and extending to a sort-of psychic wine distributor (Joanna Cassidy), an underwritten doctor (Jim Parsons) and a few glowering neighbours (the guy Eveleigh thinks is brewing meth actually runs an artisanal olive oil business in one of the film’s few honest laughs). With all this, it’s relatively easy to peg the traditional chatty, down-to-earth best friend Sadie (Gillian Jacobs, very good) as a likely culprit. This is underlined by the fact that Eveleigh has only just met Sadie, who is also pregnant, and has an actual long-time best friend (Eva Longoria), who has no narrative purpose. Yes, Sadie is the mother of the baby who died and is out – as in Inside – to claim Eveleigh’s unborn child as a replacement. There is a tiny bit of snake-swallowing that’s almost interesting as, during an intervention that turns into a home-invasion massacre in the climax, the heroine starts being prompted by her own prior premonitions to take courses of action that might get her through all this alive – maybe even changing her fate. John de Lancie is pretty much wasted in a red-herring bit, while Cassidy’s diva turn is miscalculated enough to derail the movie.