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A GOTHIC GHOST STORY THAT WILL HAUNT THE VIEWER...
on 11 November 2002
This is a little heralded gem of a film and a chilling adaptation of James Herbert's spooky novel of the same name. With a star studded cast, the film does not lack for talent. Beautifully acted, this gothic ghost story is a wonderfully atmospheric, haunted house tale, sparely told.
The film begins with a turn of the century scene in Sussex, England with two children playing in the idyllic English countryside. They are fraternal twins, David and Juliet Ash. While playing, Juliet ends up drowning, and David, to his life long regret, is unable to save her.
Years later, David (Aidan Quinn) is a Professor of Psychology with a penchant for debunking so-called supernatural occurrences. After receiving an intriguing and pleading letter from a Mrs. Webb about ghostly apparitions at the rural manor home in which she resides, David goes there, only to be met by the Mariell clan, consistibg of Christina (Kate Beckindsale), and her brothers, Robert (Anthony Andrews) and Simon (Alex Lowe). It turns out that Mrs, Webb is their old nanny, whom they all still call Nanny Tess (Ann Massey). She is clearly terrified of something that is going on in the house, and the Mariells all seem to be humoring her.
The Mariell siblings, at first, appear to be wildly eccentric Brits, but later seem to be more than just a little twisted, as it soon becomes apparent that all is not right in that household. There are things that go bump in the night, strange music is played, and the ghostly apparition of a young girl seems to glide about the house and grounds. Moreover, Nanny Tess always appears to be in a state of acute terror and is even so when the seemingly benign Dr. Doyle (John Geilgud) appears to give her a check up.
As a romance heats up between David and Kate, however, David appears to turn a blind eye to what is going on in the household. Even the apparently unwholesome relationship Christina appears to have with her brothers, especially Robert, initially fails to nonplus David. Too late, he realizes the nature of the evil within this isolated, rural manor house. In the end, it takes the force of something beyond the grave to save him from an almost unimaginable horror.
The acting is superb in this remarkably told tale of ghosts and things that go bump in the night. This is a well done, stealthily told, haunted house story that is sure to keep viewers glued to their screens. Kate Beckinsale give a wonderful performance as the seemingly quirky and free spirited Christina. Anthony Andrews is excellent as the slightly sinister, oldest sibling, Robert. Alex Lowe is appropriately eccentric as Christina's off the wall brother, Simon. John Gielgud gives a terrific cameo performance. Aidan Quinn is effective as the erstwhile debunker who loses sight of his mission and is gulled into a false sense of reality.
The only reason I did not rate this film five stars is because the director acquiesced to some need to resort to cheesy special effects at the very end. The superimposed faces on the last fire scene was unnecessary and only served to cheapen what had, otherwise, been, a very well done and spooky film. Nevertheless, this is a film well worth watching.