Hammer Horror’s resurrected body (of work) stumbles a little with this elegantly creepy, Seventies-set chiller about an Oxford professor seeking to debunk the supernatural by curing a ‘possessed’ teenage girl.
Holing up in an old house in the countryside, Professor Coupland (Jared Harris) and his three students continue their experiments on a psychologically disturbed young girl who reputedly generates paranormal phenomena. Coupland believes that if he can cure her psychosis, he can prove there is no such thing as the supernatural.
The set up is well executed (although the monstrously unethical nature of Coupland’s experiments and treatments are kind of hand-waived away) and as the mysteries deepen and the scares mount up, there’s a real sense of anticipation. Unfortunately this gives way to a real sense of anti-climax as the film begins to deliver its explanations for the paranormal events. It always feels like a cheat to me when a film is playing with the question of whether or not supernatural phenomena are real that it doesn’t unambiguously answer its own question. Occasionally, the lingering uncertainty can be creepily effective but here it feels clichéd and lazy.
As a result, although it lovingly recreates the 1970s Hammer vibe, it can’t find it in itself to really be terrifying and thanks to the inclusion of a student filming the experiment, it flirts unwisely and distractingly with ‘found footage’. There are still a few good scares along the way and some gruesome ideas but they eventually get trampled in the effort to make sure that nothing is conclusive.
Jared Harris gives the whole thing a much needed air of gravitas that prevents it from feeling like a cheap British direct to DVD potboiler, while the young cast are decent enough. But still it feels like yet another Horror film which promises much more than it eventually delivers.