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The Domicile (2017) Review

Standard horror film about a haunted writer with some serious issues.

The Domicile is a 2017 horror film about a one-time successful playwright, who works diligently on a follow-up play that could land him back in the spotlight he so eagerly craves.

Moving on from tragedy is never easy, and finding strength to find passion for life in the face of such can be the greatest challenge. So it is with Jared Cohn‘s latest The Domicile, a by-the-book haunted house horror film that is technically well-made and does feature a strong lead but is never fully engaging, too comfortable in the clichés of the genre to really be effective.

It begins with a struggling writer named Russell Brody (Steve Richard Harris), trying to finish his latest play. His young wife Estella (Katherine Flannery) is pregnant with twins and upstairs lives Samantha (Amanda Ruth Ritchie), Estella’s mentally disturbed and delusional sister, confined mostly to her bed and cared for by a nurse. She is in a constant state of hysterics, writhing about in the bed screaming and laughing maniacally. One night, a home accident kills Estella and the loss of her and the unborn children send Russell into a year-long tailspin as he takes to drinking while still trying to care for Samantha, but what he doesn’t know is that there is a presence in the house, an evil one and when Russell rekindles with an old flame (Sara Malakul Lane), he begins to lose grip on his sanity. Or does he?

Perhaps trying to be an homage of sorts, The Domicile is a pretty standard horror film that clings to all the old has-beens with plenty of retreads of classic moments in more successful films, including a creepily crawling long-haired young woman coming down the stairs, demon shapes in the shadows, maggots, and even a near word-for-word line from The Exorcist in a strikingly similar moment. It depends entirely on worn out jump scares and thumps in the dark. Unfortunately it’s not all that innovate with these callbacks, instead seemingly running through a laundry list of must-haves, never quite earning any frights.

The Domicile
The Domicile, 2017 © Traplight Pictures

Samantha is the hardest pill to swallow, obviously needing to be in a specialized care facility at the very minimum. She is beyond home care, and her continued hyper-violent activity is never really convincing even as Ritchie makes great efforts to ring some authenticity out of it. Not that the filmmakers really know what to do with her. She disappears for the entire second act. It’s not entirely all on her shoulders though as the script and story don’t quite hold together. While Harris is good as Russell, he’s forced to run through a slog of search the dark and mis-believe what he sees moments while a ghost hovers about staring at things.

Cohn succeeds best with his direction and visuals, managing to squeeze out some decent atmosphere with a well-photographed film that handles the ghostly tropes effectively though there are a number of noticeable audio gaffs that nearly mute some of the dialogue. Russell’s haunting could have been a metaphor for his writer’s block and grief but that’s not really explored as well as it should be, instead putting time into his spiraling decline with more padding than substance about infidelity. The Domicile certainly believes in its story, taking itself very seriously but there’s no investment in any of the characters and some ‘scary’ moments often inspire unintended laughs. An earnest attempt, however this is one ghost story that fades quickly.

The Domicile (2017) Review

Movie description: The Domicile is a 2017 horror film about a one-time successful playwright, who works diligently on a follow-up play that could land him back in the spotlight he so eagerly craves.

Director(s): Jared Cohn

Actor(s): Steve Richard Harris, Demetrius Stear, Katherine Flannery

Genre: Horror

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