In a Stranger's House Movie Review
Written by Joel Harley
Released by Weird Pretty Pictures
Written and directed by Richard Waters
2018, 71 minutes, Rated TBA
UK release on October 31st 2018
Richard Waters as Richard
Theresa Bradley as Heather
Emily Kelly as Clara
Knocking about alone in a stranger’s creepy house while housesitting, a man encounters increasingly unsettling supernatural phenomena, ratcheting from mildly spooky to massively horrific in a matter of days. Handling everything from the acting to the writing and editing, this is a one-man-show from director and star Richard Waters – no supporting cast required.
Sure there are two dogs, a cat and a few brief appearances from other humans aside from Waters, but In a Stranger’s House is as Indie found footage as Indie found footage gets. The story is a slow mood burner, carefully cranking up the atmosphere and tension until things finally reach breaking point for the poor housesitter. How scary one finds all of this will depend entirely upon how affected one tends to be by the mise en scène of found footage films. While one has to admire Waters’ dedication and commitment, this is no Paranormal Activity, just a few porcelain dolls going bump in the night. It should strike a chord with fans of fans of Dear David and his brand of low-stakes kitchen-sink drama.
While In a Stranger’s House will do little to win over detractors of the found footage subgenre, it is nevertheless a refreshing change of pace from the usual stock characters running around abandoned lunatic asylums, hospitals or woodlands. Waters’s haunted (?) house story has its share of cliché and repetitiveness, but the film is imprinted with creativity and invention – if only out of necessity, with Waters being the sole character and, ultimately, the guy holding the camera.
Budget be damned, once the pace quickens, the plot thickens and its hero stops vlogging, In a Stranger’s House is almost as effective and compelling as the horror films Waters was clearly inspired by (The Blair Witch Project) is an obvious touchstone), even if the wobbly camerawork and repetitive shots do eventually get on the nerves (there’s almost five minutes of Richard trying to pull down and climb a loft ladder). The sound design and use of lighting, however, are excellent, even as one struggles to distinguish quite what is supposed to be going on amidst the murk.
As the sole talent behind the film, a lot hangs on Waters’ shoulders. It may be slow, cheap and exasperatingly incoherent at times, but that doesn’t diminish its ambition, nor the well-maintained mood and atmosphere, or obvious passion behind the camera. Its director, writer and actor should all be proud of what they have achieved here.