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

I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House
Director: Oz Perkins
Writer: Oz Perkins
Cast: Ruth Wilson, Paula Prentiss, Bob Balaban, Lucy Boynton, Erin Boyes
Seen on: 13.11.2022

Lily (Ruth Wilson) is a hospice nurse and she has come to stay with author Iris Blum (Paula Prentiss) in her final time on earth. Lily quickly feels freaked out by Iris’ house, and the fact that she wrote horror novels isn’t helping either. But after a while of Iris calling Lily “Polly”, Lily dares to open Iris’ most famous book, reading about its protagonist Polly (Lucy Boynton). And there are some eerie parallels between Lily and Polly.

I was hesitant to watch this film because I heard that it relied heavily on voice-over and that is just not my thing. But ultimately, Ruth Wilson was too much of a draw. And I’m glad I gave the film a chance. It’s labyrinthine structure and dreamlike atmosphere had me hooked.

The film poster showing Polly (Lucy Boynton) in profile, her upper half looking right, her lower half turned to the left.

More often than not, voice-overs are superfluous, distracting and lazy writing choices in films. This is why I don’t like them in general. But I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House does something very different with its voice-over and uses it so effectively that it adds to the mystery and the way the plot folds in on itself. The plot, by the way, is not supposed to be unraveled, it is there to be marveled at as a maze.

The film is generally not interested in classic narratives and filmmaking conventions, or rather, it is not interested in sticking to them, but how to bend them, underlining the out-of-this-world feeling the film conjures up and that I found extremely beguiling. Not that the film doesn’t have anything to say. We can talk about its ideas about death and ghosts, or on gendered violence. It just doesn’t say it in a linear, non-contradictory manner.

Lily (Ruth Wilson) reading a book while standing in front of a book shelf.

In short, I was very much caught up in the flow of the film, thanks in no small part to the ever radiant Ruth Wilson who gives Lily just the right mix of timid sweetness and strength to carry the film. The cast was generally good, but Wilson has most to do and carries the film.

The horror elements of the story fall by the wayside a little. They are there, and there are some really scary moments but the film is more interested in haunting than in scaring – and that translates to its mood as well. I am sure that calm, almost soft touch of the film won’t appeal to everybody, especially not people who are looking for a classic haunted house horror. But if you can let yourself fall into the film, you’re in for a treat.

Polly (Lucy Boynton) walking through the house in a blindfold.

Summarizing: really interesting.

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