The audience takes an emotional, haunting roller coaster, bouncing from fear to anger, happiness and joy of relief following a character driven storyline from director and writer Desiree Lim, with her creation The House that follows and explores a soul searching of Jean Kaneko (Natalie Skye). Jean just quit her coveted and yet shallow, soulless job of an investment banker, finished a journey of traveling around the world and retreats to family friend’s wealthy home, supposedly empty waiting for the rebound market, so the identifying with the lead character becomes a strain for general audience. However, Lim’s screenplay takes the audience through a transfer of dislike to likable with Jean, and reminds one of Col. Slade in Scent of a Woman with Al Pacino, no one like his character at the start of the film, but we grow to root for him by the end, just like Jean.
Jean shares the home with others, a self-loathing college professor, and his nasty sister married to an overly loyal husband, a wretched cab driver and a drifter, just one issue they all are ghosts, stuck in a limbo residing in the house. There’s a moment in the film which one wonders if they exists or they are guilt ridden images from the destruction she and her ilk created with their immense greed. This element falls to wayside quickly, with setup to a proper and multi-level ghost story. A key note, these ghosts, don’t glow, or creepy crawling grayed out specter, rather look like average people, hence developing an imagination for the audience to become lost in, and give them heartache when needed. The people, the dead, dealing with issues, regrets, mistakes, and yet struggle with acceptance, and Jean acts as “Ghost Whisperer” taking the time with each one, as if a client, and understanding their desires. These ghosts never go the easy route, their dealing with deep complexities from drug usage, violence, betrayal, and suicidal actions. The turmoil between Carrington ghosts, and Darrel (respectively: Alex Zahara, Emilie Ullerup, David Richmond-Peck) has the most twists and turns possible, the actors do a fine performance, never alluding to the next line, and keep the viewers in the dark for as long as possible. While Raja (Zahf Paroo), the taxi driver and his passenger Geoff Blank (Zak Santiago), most distant of each other, but each of the actors provide explosive rage. Geoff’s last name actually plays into his absent past, and perhaps into reluctance to accept any responsibilities for anything.
The house itself plays factor, with the luxuries that most people dream about, and that allows for the film to take a more grandiose pattern, use in The Haunted. In addition, the film, focuses itself mostly in the house except for a few flashback images, and filled many windows, revealing fantastic landscaping, and dotted with glass and mirrors, all used with alluring angles and mysterious shots, as if the house watches Jean laughing at her confusion, similar to The Haunting (1963). Although to some critics the film is not without flaws, one of the issues involves the ghostly characters, a part of debate, and they know each other why can’t they remember the connections to each other. The reason, they might be in limbo, a purgatory and keep repeating the station, the forgetting aspect rejection of the acceptance of guilt. Another minor issue the film grinds slowly in the beginning, taking time to establish the lead character and the setting, but not generating suspense, though the lengthy introduction gives one understanding of each the ghosts. Lastly much conjuncture over the major aspect why the dead gather at this one home, while some speculate that house connects them, and others resume that an accident in front the resident which contains high walls and gated front, acting as a prison, keeps them together, either way the film never suffers for it.
Simply a wonderful ghost telling film, which lacks scares, spooks, goblins, and also no bloodshed, this rather falls into a supernatural spiritual film, a transcending arc for the ghosts and Jean, who wrestles with her own demons and horrid ghosts. The peace and thrill ride bring a fine performance for everyone involved, and makes one look forward to Lim’s next project regardless of the genre.