The Haunting of Ellie Rose (2015)    0 Stars

“When the past is better left buried”

The Haunting of Ellie Rose (2015)
The Haunting of Ellie Rose (2015)


Director: Tristan Versluis

Cast: Lucy Benjamin, Alexandra Moen, Bill Ward

Synopsis: A troubled woman retreats to her family’s holiday cabin in an attempt to come to terms with a traumatic incident from her past.




WARNING! This review contains SPOILERS!

The fact that The Haunting of Ellie Rose underwent a number of title changes and was filmed in 2009, a good six years before it eventually earned a direct-to-DVD release in October 2015, doesn’t bode well for the debut feature from established make-up artist Tristan Versluis, and it has to be said that the film fails both as a straightforward horror picture and as a psychological drama. With his fondness for compositions reminiscent of Bergman, and lingering Bunuel-esque shots of decaying animal carcasses, Versluis rashly invites comparison with filmmakers considered by some to be masters of their art, and suffers accordingly as he strives to conjure narrative intrigue out of psychological metaphor. While you have to acknowledge his courage in employing a deliberately obtuse means of telling his story, the absence of a guiding hand to steer him away from the obvious pitfalls are painfully obvious.

Ellie Rose (Lucy Benjamin) is a troubled woman. We know this from the interminable shots of her gazing out to sea, or peering into the darkness as she sips bourbon on the porch of her family’s summer cabin. In a pre-credits sequence, we saw her and her younger sister Chloe (Alexandra Moen) stumble upon a scene of carnage in the home of their mother so, of course, Ellie has good reason to be troubled. But it also becomes clear that a voiceover which explains how her mother abruptly changed after Chloe’s birth is something of a lie; it was Ellie, the sister who no longer had her parent’s undivided attention, who changed. Later, Ellie is joined by Chloe, and the sisters enjoy a brief period of calm until the threat of the arrival of Ellie’s abusive husband, Frank (Bill Ward) casts a cloud over their haven.

It’s not so much Versluis’s story that is troublesome as the way in which he tries to pad out an already short running time of 80 minutes. Not only are we repeatedly subjected to a disjointed, rapid-edit, black-and-white flashback, we also have to sit through the same scene of Ellie’s discovery of her mother’s mutilated body at least four times. Presumably, each replay is intended to introduce a fresh stage in Ellie’s descent into madness, but it’s an unnecessarily long-winded way of doing so which quickly grows boring. For some reason – possibly commercial – the story is set in the United States in the 1950s, and at times the cast struggles with their American accents, although Benjamin does reasonably well in a demanding role. Versluis does have a nice eye for shot composition and admirably avoids most standard horror movie techniques – there are no jump cuts or menacing shadows (although doors do slam shut for no apparent reason) – but he’s ultimately undone by a combination of artistic pretension and weak storytelling.

(Reviewed 10th October 2015)

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