I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House
|I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House|
|Directed by||Osgood Perkins|
|Written by||Osgood Perkins|
|Music by||Elvis Perkins|
|Edited by||Brian Ufberg|
I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House is a 2016 American-Canadian horror film written and directed by Osgood Perkins. It stars Ruth Wilson as a live-in nurse who suspects her elderly employer's house may be haunted. It premiered at the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival and was released worldwide on Netflix on October 28.
Iris Blum, a retired horror writer, suffers from dementia and lives in a remote house in New England. The house was built by a man for his new bride, but the couple vanished on their wedding day and left the house unfurnished. Iris's estate manager, Mr. Waxcap, hires live-in nurse Lily Saylor to care for her. On Lily's first night in the house, the telephone is wrenched out of her hands by an unseen force. A spot of black mold appears on a section of wall and slowly grows as the months pass. Lily often finds a corner of the rug at the base of the stairs has been flipped up, but she is the only person in the house who walks on the first floor.
Iris only refers to Lily as "Polly," which Mr. Waxcap explains comes from the protagonist of her most popular novel, The Lady in the Walls. Later, Lily opens a copy of the book in Iris's study, and finds that the novel implies that Iris knew Polly during her lifetime and is retelling her story. A flashback depicts a woman, presumably Polly, wearing a wedding dress and black blindfold, walking through the empty house. A man wearing a suit can be seen in the other room, his distinguishing features hidden from the frame. Lily sets the book back on the shelf, too frightened to continue.
While rinsing berries in the kitchen, black mold spots cover Lily's hands and arms. Upon closer inspection, she realizes her arms have become noticeably bloated and have turned to a sickly grey color. Iris calls for Lily, which momentarily distracts her from her arms, and they appear normal when she looks at them again. Later that evening, while turning the channel dial on the television, she spots the reflection of a figure dressed in white standing in the archway of the room. When she turns around, no one is there.
Lily discovers a moldy cardboard box hidden away in a closet. Inside, she discovers rough drafts for The Lady in the Walls. Lily comes to believe that the novel may not be fictitious, but rather depicts an actual murder committed in the house. The continued flashback, a blindfolded Polly uses her hands to feel her surroundings, coming across a section of the wall that has been stripped of its boards - the same section where mold is growing in the present day. Polly raises her blindfold and sees the hole, locking eyes with her husband in confusion. Her husband suddenly bludgeons her to death with a hammer and hides her body behind the wall.
In the present, Lily discussing the book with Iris, who continues to address her as Polly. Iris grows angry with Lily, explaining that she feels betrayed and abandoned, stating that even the prettiest of things eventually rot, and that she will "fall apart like flowers." Later, Lily watches television in her bedroom when Polly's ghost visits Iris, whispering in her ear. Lily hears a metallic clang, followed by a rhythmic banging sound. Downstairs, she finds the wall boards removed and piled beside the moldy wall. Lily suddenly encounters the ghost and dies of a shock-induced heart attack. Polly's ghost lingers near the opening in the wall, staring at the camera.
Several days later, Mr. Waxcap discovers Lily's body. Because Iris never received visitors, she dies as well. An ambulance removes the bodies, and Mr. Waxcap makes preparations to sell the house. A new family moves in, unaware of its history or ghostly occupants. The camera focuses on a ghostly apparition resembling Lily, who refers to herself as the "pretty thing you are looking at".
- Ruth Wilson as Lily Saylor
- Paula Prentiss as Iris Blum
- Bob Balaban as Mr. Waxcap
- Lucy Boynton as Polly Parsons
Writer-director Osgood Perkins originally intended for the story to be about the daughter of a male horror novelist, but he said that "one day, it just changed". Casting became easier once the film was financed; Perkins cited Wilson's talent and excitement for the project as two of the reasons she was chosen to play Lily. Prentiss – a family friend who, as well as her husband Richard Benjamin, had performed with Perkins' father, Anthony Perkins – was the director's only choice to play Iris.
Rotten Tomatoes, a review aggregator, reports that 60% of fifteen surveyed critics gave the film a positive review; the average rating is 5.9/10. Dennis Harvey of Variety wrote that the film's atmosphere can not overcome its minimalist and familiar writing. Stephen Dalton of The Hollywood Reporter called it "classy vintage horror with a literary flavor" and compared it to the works of David Lynch, Stanley Kubrick, and Roman Polanski. April Wolfe of The Village Voice described it as "the most atmospherically faithful adaptation ever of a Shirley Jackson book that never existed" and concluded that the film was "the very best of gothic horror." In rating it 2/5 stars, Nigel M. Smith of The Guardian wrote, "Osgood Perkins layers on the dread in his haunted house thriller. But as it becomes clear that there's no worthwhile story, the scares dissipate fast." A. A. Dowd of The A.V. Club called it a creepy, slow burn drama that works despite its lack of a conventional payoff.
- "I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House". Toronto International Film Festival. Retrieved 2016-09-19.
- Collis, Clark (2016-09-12). "TIFF: How director Osgood Perkins dreamed up the chilling I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2016-09-19.
- "I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House (2016)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2016-10-28.
- Harvey, Dennis (2016-09-17). "Toronto Film Review: I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House". Variety. Retrieved 2016-09-19.
- Dalton, Stephen (2016-09-16). "'I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House': Film Review | TIFF 2016". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2016-09-19.
- Wolfe, April (2016-09-15). "Toronto Film Festival: I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House Is the Best of Gothic Horror". The Village Voice. Retrieved 2016-09-19.
- Smith, Nigel M. (2016-09-16). "I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House review – Ruth Wilson can't save underwritten horror". The Guardian. Retrieved 2016-09-19.
- Dowd, A. A. (2016-10-27). "I Am The Pretty Thing That Lives In The House creeps by on spectacular mood". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 2016-10-28.