A big budget and glamorous set design does not insure a successful box office; take for example Guillermo del Toro’s Crimson Peak (2015) a budget of $55 million and estimated gross of $31 million, a clear failure, transversely the independent market also struggles for footing, the risk equal for Rasmussen brothers’ film The Inhabitants. I learned about the movie from American Film Market, and TomCat Films/ Summer Hill Films, as a return to haunting classic production, which had my interest, filled with ghostly storylines from a location that involved an individual from the Salem Witch Trials. Michael and Shawn Rasmussen used their past fame of writers for John Carpenter’s The Ward (2010) and glossed over their less than appealing Dark Feed (2013) with assistance of crowd funding to launch this better than many haunted house horror films.
The film starts with the typical horror cliché of an exceptionally attractive couple a tad too sure of themselves to acquire a mysterious location, herein a historical neglected bed and breakfast inn, in Massachusetts only learning of the darkness hiding in the shadows ready to corrupt the innocent and naïve. The couple Jessica and Dan (Elise Couture and Michael Reed), which at times had some believable connection and chemistry on the screen. Couture, who some might recall from Dark Feed, has at times a kind of mysterious outlook, who welcomes the ownership at first of the inn and fulfilling her dreams. While Reed, known more for his extensive horror film resume of twelve films, such as Exhumed (2011) and stars in the upcoming flick Chupacabra Territory (2016), and incidentally also starred in Dark Feed, portrays a more easy going mentality. Once again the writing and director Rasmussen team borrowing a page of the Carpenter’s and Alfred Hitchcock’s playbooks, work with those who you know, and you’ll know that less pitfalls await at the end of production. They also used the real location, as a central character the inn known as the March Carriage Bed and Breakfast, though in reality the 350 year old Noyes-Parris House – of the infamous connection to Salem Witch Trials, from the owner of Samuel Parris, whose daughter Betty and cousin Abigail started the incendiary matter. However, surprisingly nothing in the movie references that point, rather leading to a dark presence of Lydia (India Pearl), and strange neighbors begin to appear, Dan discovers the evil of the previous owners now plaguing them with problems. Jessica begins to transform, becoming more distant and colder in her mannerism, and struggling with the chores and duties of owning the buildings, all accumulating into a hellish fun ride for the most part. A downside into the movie, the usage of surveillance cameras, worked for a little bit but the overall payoff weakens the film, losing the haunting qualities quickly, and breaking tension, and feels reminiscent of My Little Eye (2002).
Ghost stories, a principal part in the horror genre, and used in more creatively to propel a story forward and in the haunted house tales, results in more positive narrative. The storyline of The Inhabitants uses the environment of the exterior, the snow cover and darkness of the thick wall of forestry nearby to create an isolation of creepiness. A true effort to create and rekindle the works of The Changeling (1980) and The Haunting (1963) delivering a dramatic story with a jolt or two for the unsuspecting viewer. This does not mean the typical horror no-no’s do not exist, they do, venturing in secret areas by oneself and in the dark, flickering lights prompting further investigating might sucker the non-horror fans in for other scares, but the season vets, find this foreshadowing a tad too much to handle.
A return of gothic horror needs to resuscitate the genre, with more tension building and psychological torments, not from oversize goblins, but the atmospheric horrors which enrich the genre, once before with characters controlling the content, than with excessive CGI. The budget wears thin at certain places, but the tension works at times, sadly not constantly, rather scattered attempts, but never letting the building go to waste, using it for everything. At times the camera work appears a bit off, and the writing along with the pacing has an element of forcing the scenes into place.
This time Shawn and Michael deliver a better and much improved tale of supernatural forces and haunting, yet do not try to refine and change the standards for the genre, rather creating a mood, and using it to exploit all other avenues of scares. Rather than waste time with another whirl of the Paranormal Activity series, spend some time with a dark tone film, and some enjoyable teasing moments.