When her mother, Ellen, dies, artist Annie (Toni Collette), feels guilty that she is not sad. Her mother had been a very difficult person to love, after all. Her husband, Steve (Gabriel Byrne), is supportive and her teenaged son, Peter (Alex Wolff), is fairly indifferent. But her young daughter, Charlie (Milly Shapiro), who was closest to her grandmother, is inconsolable.
Annie and her family are a strange bunch at the best of times, but little Charlie is an unusual child with a somewhat morose interest in death. Throughout the film we begin to learn or catch glimpses of just how strange the family's lives have been. When tragedy strikes the family again they begin to understand that there is something darker at play here, and it may all stem from Ellen...
A really enthralling film that kept me captivated throughout. Although the plot doesn't deliver constant pulse-pounding terror, the characters are just odd enough and the plot just emotional enough to keep you on the edge of your seat. I left the cinema with a haunted sense of melancholy that didn't shift for a few days. I felt essentially haunted by this film! It's a feeling I don't get often, but it's definitely something I'd consider to be a good sign.
Annie is a study in dysfunctionality, perfectly and movingly performed by Collette who keeps the tension and emotion dialled up to 11 with a believable and oddly sympathetic effect despite some of the character's actions.
Shaprio gives a very memorable and haunting performance as the disturbing young Charlie, and Wolff really brings the events affecting Peter to a level that surpasses typical horror movie levels. Byrne's father character is against all odds, trying to keep the family going. The film is superiorly acted on all counts.
Although the final scenes may seem to go to sudden and extreme lengths in quick succession, as a 70s horror fan, I felt that it really paid an excellent but modernised homage to the genre.
Definitely worth catching in the cinema, it may not terrify you, but it will certainly stay with you for a while...
[Image: PalmStar Media, et al]