I wasn’t really sure what to expect when I went into this film. I Am the Pretty Thing That Live in the House hits the main points for a normally good ghost story, but takes its time getting to them. Pretty Thing has a meandering pace that makes the film feel longer than it actually is. Though I don’t feel that earns it the one star it has (at the time of writing this review) as it is better than that. I enjoy horror films with a faster pace, though it is nice from time to time to sit down to one film that isn’t in a rush and lets you enjoy your beer.
Lily Saylor (Ruth Wilson) is a live-in hospice nurse hired by Mr. Waxcap (Bob Balaban), the manger of the estate Iris Blum (Paula Prentiss) to care for her. Iris is an elderly writer suffering from dementia, who has lived in the same home for years and made it her wish to be cared for until her death in her home. After moving into the house Lily begins to experience unearthly events, such as having the phone torn from her hands on the first night by an unseen force and catching images of a woman in the reflection of the television. Over the next year Lily grows increasingly uneasy in the house as a dark mold starts growing along the wall near the kitchen. Also unnerving her is that Iris never calls her by her name, instead referring to her as Polly. The character in her best known novel, The Lady in the Walls. After finding Iris’s handwritten notes on the novel, leading her to believe that Polly (Lucy Boynton) is a real ghost that haunts the home…
As I said the pacing is a problem as the film meanders for the first half of the film and when it does go for the scares it mostly just hits the expected notes. Fostering a generic feeling that is hard to ignore. Though this feeling dissipates towards the end of the second act.
The visuals are actually pretty great, easily my favorite part of the film. Julie Kirkwood does a great job as cinematographer and her talent really shows through. Each shot is well executed and beautiful to look at. Her attention to detail and lighting is, simply wonderful and creates a lasting air of dread.
The acting is unbalanced. With each actor having noticeable highs and lows with inconstant performances. This is most problematic with Ruth Wilson. Who at times comes off as tender and real, only for a few moments later to read as cold and uninteresting. Even Bob Balaban, who I normally love is low energy and feels uninterested.
Final thoughts, the visuals combined with the atmosphere is what sells this movie for me. The pacing and inconstant acting is problematic but not a deal breaker. I wish that Pretty Thing had focused more on the haunting, which is strange given is a ghost story. But it feels like it’s trying to dance around the subject at times and be more than the basic ghost story it is. 6/10