Vanguard

I Am the Pretty Thing that Lives in the House

Osgood Perkins

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A naïve young nurse caring for an aging, reclusive horror novelist begins to believe that her patient’s new novel contains ominous clues about her own fate, in the new film from director Osgood Perkins (February).

After wowing Festival audiences last year with his debut feature, February, Osgood Perkins is back with a sophomore effort that cements his status as an auteur of sophisticated phantasmagoric cinema.

Lily (Ruth Wilson) is a naïve young nurse hired to care for aging and reclusive author Iris Bloom (Paula Prentiss) — a character based on American mystery and horror novelist Shirley Jackson — in her isolated country manor. The old woman is lost in her memories and barely acknowledges her caregiver, except to repeatedly call her "Polly," the protagonist of her novel The Lady in the Walls. Though Lily is squeamish and easily frightened, her curiosity gets the better of her and she reads the book: the chilling story of a beautiful murdered woman. It gets under Lily's skin, and she comes unhinged as the shadows of Iris' grand home begin to take on a more sinister appearance.

Replete with literary reference — from Edgar Allan Poe to Henry James to murder ballads — the erudite and eloquent script revels in structural games, even turning over a goodly portion of its narrative to a ghostly narrator. Wilson delivers a powerful performance as the wide-eyed innocent falling prey to the dark forces lurking in every dusty corner. And the house itself is a compelling central character; its joists and floorboards creak and whisper secrets of dread and madness. I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House is an atmospheric and lyrical ghost story that will envelop you with a hypnotic sense of creepy unease.

COLIN GEDDES

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