The Haunting of Radcliffe House (2014)    1 Stars


The Haunting of Radcliffe House (2014)
The Haunting of Radcliffe House (2014)


Director: Nick Willing

Cast: Olivia Williams, Matthew Modine, Antonia Clarke

Synopsis: A young family move to an isolated house which the wife has been hired to restore, only to discover that the previous owner is reputed to have murdered his wife.




“I have a feeling this house is full of surprises,” says Meg Hamilton (Olivia Williams – Flashbacks of a Fool) shortly after moving into the titular house with her family to begin its restoration.   It’s her big chance in the world of home restoration, apparently, so she unaccountably decides that she and her family, comprising of inspiration-blocked artist Alec (Matthew Modine – Full Metal Jacket, The Dark Knight Rises), teenage daughter Antonia (Penny Hamilton) and young son Harper (Adam Thomas Wright), will move in for the duration of the project, but neglects to line up any builders, electricians, plumbers or labourers of any description.   Lucky for her, then, that her employer isn’t particularly interested in his recent inheritance and is restoring it to its original condition purely because the recently found will stipulates that the house can’t be sold until it is.

Of course, Meg’s right about those surprises, although not in the way she expected.   Unfortunately, what are surprises for the characters in The Haunting of Radcliffe House, are nothing more than a string of tired old cliches for the audience.   A door inexplicably slamming shut might be moderately frightening the first time it happens, but grows old quick, as does Meg’s insistence on being the voice of reason in the face of strange goings-on that are serious enough to compel her level-headed daughter to contact a self-proclaimed ‘Ghost Whisperer’, and are turning her husband into a secretive near-recluse and wife-rapist.   While the back-story behind the mysterious goings-on is sort-of explained, the hows and whys of what’s happening to the increasingly frazzled Hamiltons are never made clear.   Why, for example, does some invisible spirit drive the two kids to a field, where they come across a painting of themselves that depicts them as they look at that exact moment?   Writer-director Nick Willing must have had a reason for including that scene, but for some reason he chooses not to share it with the rest of us.

The Haunting of Radcliffe House was presumably shot on a low budget (it needed crowd-funding on Kickstarter to finance a distribution deal in the US and premiered on Channel 5 in the UK), but it’s directed with care and attention to detail by Willing.    It’s also well-acted – although the adult characters aren’t particularly sympathetic – and creates a brooding, ominous atmosphere from the very first shot.   There are perhaps too many influences apparent in the mix (The Shining, in particular), but The Haunting of Radcliffe House mostly steers clear of resorting to cheap scare tactics for effect.   It’s just a shame Willing didn’t take as much care explaining the details of the plot as he did in the shooting of the movie.

(Reviewed 5th June 2015)

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