AN ENGLISH HAUNTING (2020)
Set in the 1960s, a young man and his alcoholic mother are forced to move into the mysterious isolated manor house, to care for his dying Grandfather who resides in the attic room. Almost instantly, ghostly goings-on fill the place with dread and the vast estate reveals itself to be a home harbouring dark secrets and all manner of evils (who’d have guessed?).
Whilst the lineage doesn’t possess the same volume as those across the Atlantic, us Brits do horror quite well, all things considered. From the short stories of M.R. James to the vivid and richly coloured escapades of Cushing and Lee, we do seem to have a knack for the ghostly and the gory. This new horror, the rather flavourlessly titled An English Haunting, is a tale told in the modest tradition of films like The Ghoul (1975) and proves that while horror is always striving for new places to spread its sinister wings, it’s usually the simple stuff that’s the most chilling. Be it a bump in the night, fear of the unknown, a mind-melting foray into the uncanny or just grotesque monster lurking under your bed. Many modern horror films continue to proudly embrace the vintage tastes of the past, be it the stark, shadowy world of German expressionism such as The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920) or Nosferatu (1922), the thrills of Universal’s monsters or the immaculate stylings of a Hammer flick – and this is no exception.
The usual tropes and trappings of a spooky yarn of old are here, as well as an air of family tragedy looming over everything and everyone – à la Hereditary (2018). It’s a deliberately slow scarefest to begin with, with flashes of jugular-aimed terror strewn throughout, and many spectators will be a few steps ahead of the film and acutely aware of where things are heading, that is until the final hour comes along and hits us over the head with an orgy of Omenesque melodrama.
Safe to say there aren’t too many shocks and surprises in store in An English Haunting, but it’s one of the better Scooby-Doo inspired spookfests to emerge in the past decade thanks to Michael Lloyd’s graceful camerawork, Graham Plowman’s score and Charlie Steeds assured direction.