Director: Nick Willing
Screenplay: Nick Willing
Starring: Olivia Williams, Matthew Modine, Antonia Clarke, Aden Thomas, Steve Oram
Running Time: 89 mins
BBFC Classification: 15
A family of arty types move into an old stately home on the Yorkshire moors. Mum, Meg Hamilton (played by the ever reliable Olivia Williams) is some sort of house restorer who the new uber rich owner has given instructions to, to get the old pile restored back to its former glories over a period of about six months. Meanwhile her husband, Alec, (played by Matthew Modine) is a sculptor who’s been suffering with a bit of artist’s block syndrome of late, hence is hoping that the change in location might act as a catalyst for a fresh wave of creativity to wash over him. Accompanying the two adults are teenage daughter, Penny and her younger brother, Harper.
It doesn’t take long for some strange things to start happening to the family – the daughter sees a strange apparition in a photo her mum took, near a doorway in the house. The two of them investigate and find that behind the wallpaper is a bricked up doorway – spooky! The mother also sees a bare-footed apparition in the grounds, and the husband starts to sketch weird versions of a younger Meg with long hair. In one freaky scene we see him massaging his wife and he somehow cuts himself and then starts to massage his blood into his unsuspecting wife’s skin! As she showers the blood off later, he starts taking photos of her from a vantage point outside the shower cubicle…
As the strange events start to become the norm, Meg wants to call in a paranormal investigator and eventually persuades her mum to let one into the house. Investigator Donelly finds an occult floor design in the attic and a weird hook on the wall, which used to be part of a pulley system to kill sacrificial offerings. Meanwhile dad is becoming increasingly obsessed with the history of the place and sees the previous female occupant in his wife, and this sets off a frenzy of sculpting that leads to our ‘happy’ couple having a rather physical argument culminating in Alec raping his wife.
A strange man, Charles Kendrick Walker, turns up at the house seemingly knowing a lot more than he’s letting on about what’s going on and what happened historically. Even so he takes an acute interest in the attic and his presence seems to trigger further evil befalling the besieged family.
The Haunting of Radcliffe House is a weird blend of good old English ghost story, replete with spectral apparitions swishing around an old house and its grounds, and the more modern tradition of having such ghostly goings on explained by black magic rituals and the evil activities of former residents. The film shares certain elements with movies like The Shining and Hellraiser, although it puts its own twist on the ‘family in supernatural peril’ theme.
There’s some nice photography throughout, although the filmmakers don’t make the most of the Yorkshire setting, mainly focussing on the house and grounds, which are still eerily impressive.
The acting is very good and all the performers seem to have bought into the concepts of the story and therefore do their best to sell the somewhat hokey storyline. Sadly director/writer Nick Willing doesn’t always generate the tension this kind of film needs, and while there are some genuinely creepy moments these are too few and far between. However, I did like Nick’s take on the demonic black magic ritual, with its floor mosaic setting and its peculiar method of victim dispatch, which was at least something quite original. On the other hand, I wasn’t so enamoured by the rather predictable ending, which I saw coming from miles off – maybe I’ve just seen too many of these kinds of films!
Overall The Haunting of Radcliffe House is a decent enough spook fest, which is a bit too much of a ‘best of haunted house films’ compilation than an original masterpiece to be particularly memorable going forwards, but it’s still worth seeing despite that for the good performances of the cast, especially the female cast members.
The Haunting of Radcliffe House has been released on DVD and Blu-Ray and is being distributed by Image Entertainment. The extras on the disc include trailers for other recent Image Entertainment releases including The Device, Frankenstein Vs The Mummy and Zombie World, plus an image gallery of 16 stills from the film.