The Story: Young newlyweds Paul (Harry Treadaway, from PENNY DREADFUL) and Bea (Rose Leslie, from GAME OF THRONES) retreat to her family’s cabin in the woods. He seems a bit nervous about being cut off from civilization. She teases him for it. Clearly, she’s never seen a horror movie. But she’ll learn.
Expectations: The Netflix description of this one reminded me of the scene in PARANORMAL ACTIVITY where the wife gets out of bed in the middle of the night, goes outside and sits on the porch swing for several hours, then goes back to bed and can’t remember anything about it in the morning. Such a simple scene, but so terrifying—because it suggests that, for a while, the woman was not herself. A reassuring horror movie will quickly offer a pat explanation for such behavior… usually involving ghosts or aliens. A truly unnerving horror movie—like life itself—will not.
Reaction: I wasn’t excited about this film at first, because I thought the couple was annoyingly cutesy. In the beginning, they are constantly professing their love and eagerly making out. They seem like they are trying too hard. I just didn’t buy their supposed intimacy.
As the story progressed, this started to work to the film’s advantage. I realized that their behavior was a mask for insecurities, an attempt to deny the lack of intimacy that they’re supposed to have (and desperately want) as husband and wife. Maybe they have never really been alone together, away from work and friends and iphones, and so they are suddenly worried that they got married too soon, that they don’t actually know each other very well, that they might not even know themselves very well. They instinctively blanch at the idea of spending the rest of their lives together, and practically shudder at the thought of having kids together.
Then things get really complicated. Bea starts forgetting stuff (random everyday stuff, like how to cook French toast) and keeping secrets. Paul starts getting worried and suspicious. And there are some physical manifestations of imminent danger… which I won’t go into here, because I don’t want to spoil the movie. There’s an obvious red herring and a hint of a conventional horror-movie explanation for the series of strange events, but what keeps the film going is its unwillingness to decisively answer Paul’s most persistent questions: What is going on here? What’s wrong with you? Why won’t you talk to me? The film wisely keeps him—and us—guessing.
Most Nightmare-Worthy Moment: The umbilical cord.