Fear is an interesting thing. It can be irrational, such as someone with a phobia. But it is always deeply personal. It always surprises me after I view a film I feel is scary or creepy to talk with someone else who has seen it, only for the film to be dismissed for not being scary. It happens the other way, too, so sometimes I’m surprised when others describe a particular film as scary when it made no impact on me whatsoever. I suspected The Inhabitants would be such a film. I felt the film was loaded with atmosphere and filled with tension and was interested to see others’ take on the film so, after watching it, I hit IMDb. No surprise, many people thought the film was boring while others felt it delivered the creepy goods.
The plot of the film is very simple and begins the way so many haunted house films begin: a young couple purchases an ancient house and get more than they bargained for. Seems the wife of the original owner was hanged as a witch in the 1660’s after several children went missing. As the house changed hands over the centuries, it was turned into a bed-and-breakfast. Enter our young couple, whose dream it is to own a bed-and-breakfast. They purchase the house with only a cursory glance but, before too long, they both notice some weird objects in the house along with some weird goings-on.
Jessica (Elise Couture) stops by the local library while visiting town to pick up some items and, lo and behold, she finds a great deal of local lore about the “witch house” she and her husband, Dan (Michael Reed) have purchased. Actually, this was one of my only real problems with the film. If I’m in the market for a house and I’m interested in a 350-year-old structure, I’m going to have it inspected thoroughly and do quite a bit of research before making the purchase. But Jessica and Dan jump right into the deep end, making a contract after only a few minutes in the house. It seems they completely dismissed the creepy old lady who tells them they must “feed the kids.”
Other than this one criticism, I had no problem with the rest of the story. There are a couple of storylines that felt extraneous, such as the local hoodlums who sneak into the house to harass Jessica only to be confronted by something they weren’t expecting. While I understood this plot thread, it felt unnecessary. With the film coming in right at 90 minutes, my instinct tells me this particular storyline was more padding than anything. However, brothers and co-writers/co-directors Michael and Shawn Rasmussen, do an admirable job keeping the rather used-up story moving.
The film is filled with all the tropes of a standard haunted house tale: doors closing by themselves; whispers that can’t be located; objects moving across the camera when the actors are facing away; the dog behaving oddly; and so on. Plus, the Rasmussens throw in an additional item, just to up the ante. Apparently, the previous owner added secret cameras to each room as well as around the house. At first, the discovery makes Dan (and the viewers) think the previous owner was just a voyeur who got his thrills watching couples have sex at night. He even recorded the events that occurred in the various rooms. However, as Dan examines the videos a bit more closely, he begins to notice weird events and things that shouldn’t be on the tapes. Maybe the previous owners had also discovered the house’s secret and were trying to unravel the mystery themselves.
Though the Rasmussens use what some would consider the tired, stereotypical haunted house occurrences, I found their use more than just quaint. The film feels like a throwback to a 1960’s mystery, though some have described it as similar to a TV Movie of the Week. Indeed, with no real sex, no nudity, only a few droplets of blood, and near zero profanity, I can see why some modern viewers, used to more typical Hollywood fare, might find this film boring. However, I thought the directors did an admirable job creating tension. Never downright scary, the film nevertheless creates a weird, spooky atmosphere. And frankly, though I love my blood and gore, I found the lack of profanity and violence to be refreshing.
The sound and cinematography, sometimes troublesome for low-budget independent films, is solid. The score is minimalist, unobtrusive, and creepy as well as refreshingly devoid of jump scare screeches. Overall, the film was quite enjoyable. No doubt, some will find it boring without the requisite nudity and blood, but those viewers who also enjoy the films of yesteryear that were filled with creepy castles and dusty houses will enjoy this film.
The film has been released on DVD and Blu-Ray through MVD and can be found for a very fair price on Amazon at: https://www.amazon.com/Inhabitants-Elise-Couture/dp/B019HJ9BAO