Sensibly undergoing a title change from CRAWLSPACE (there are at least five films out there called that, including one that came out last year, one that’s actually Neil Marshall’s THE DESCENT under another title, and one that stars Klaus Kinski as a loony Nazi) here’s another low-budget shot on hand-held digital video American horror film that kicks off with the yawn-inducing claim that it was ‘Inspired by true events.’
But wait! This one seems to have been professionally shot! And it employs real actors rather than anyone who could be found playing in the street at the time of filming! And it has a grim and quite touching social subtext underlying its plot that comes across very well. Plus the entire thing has NOT been shot using one of those bloody awful blue filters that make you wonder if the colour detectors in your retina have somehow got buggered as you squint at the screen trying to work out what characters are actually doing.
THE ATTIC, in case you haven’t already guessed, actually isn’t bad at all.
The plot feels familiar, of course, even if we haven’t seen it done quite like this. An all-American family moves into their dream home, only to be plagued by a series of odd occurrences, mishaps and malfunctions that culminates in the realisation that the chap who owned the house before them is actually still living there. Where THE ATTIC scores points, however, is in having the head of the family work at the bank where the previous owner had his mortgage, that he couldn’t pay, with the result that the house was repossessed and sold for a song to the family that have, essentially, exploited another man’s misfortunes. And now it’s payback time.
THE ATTIC has some excellent acting from its leads, and provides us with one of the most endearing, and pleasantly real families I’ve seen in a low budget horror for some time. Steven Weber (the TV mini-series of THE SHINING) does a good turn as the baddie, driven insane by the deaths of his two children by drowning in the now-drained pool of the house. The narrative is punctuated at regular intervals by some effective, brutal murders whose bland domestic settings reminded me of the best of 1970s grim BritHorror. Director Josh Stolberg has made a number of other movies, none of them horror, but his use of the camera here, and especially his skill at picking out the spookier aspects of suburbia, means I hope he does more work within the genre - I’ll certainly be watching out for it.
It’s not a perfect film, however. Quite how Weber gets in and out of the house so effortlessly without being spotted is never adequately explained. There’s also a sequel hook of an ending that feels studio imposed.
101 Films presents THE ATTIC in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1. The print looks bright and clean. There are no extras, but it's still worth a look.
101 Films released THE ATTIC on DVD on 5th May 2014