ABBEY GRACE

PrintE-mail Written by James Evans

Stacey’s mom (no, definitely not that one, Fountains of Wayne…) has died and Stacey finds herself back home with her multiple-phobic brother Ben, doing her best to tolerate his Sleeping With the Enemy via Sheldon Cooper compulsions and rituals. Stacey’s kinda fascinated by Ben too, most notably in that he hasn’t left the house in 23 years, not even for his own beloved mother’s funeral, and since she is working towards her Phd Ben at least provides a case for her to study in between the cleaning and other domestic duties.

Stacey’s plans to ‘fix’ her brother are disrupted by the angry spirit of the titular young girl. An opening flashback has already alerted us to the murderous consequences of coming into contact with Abbey. When Stacey’s dog brings something of hers back to the family home, he brings with it Abbey too.

From writer and director Stephen Durham, Abbey Grace uses the entire overworked arsenal of the rural haunting film. Isolated farm-style house with a sinister history, tall oak tree outside (good for hanging folk from), spooky occurrences, spooked animals and no nearby help. It’s the sort of thing the Winchester brothers from Supernatural would probably have wrapped up in oh, say, around 40 minutes. Here Durham gives us a similar story of vengeful spirits that seeks to resolve things in a slightly less bombastic manner than Dean and Sam inevitably would.

Digital filmmaking is not a friend of the ghost story. Little Abbey might only be half-glimpsed on Ben’s CCTV at first but there’s no mystery to whether she’s there or not. Atmospheric hauntings are harder to come by in HD, it seems. It’s understandably not an expensive production and the low budget doesn’t work in its favour. The actors try hard but they’re limited, and the same goes for the script and special effects work.

Durham and co-writer Dave Dittlinger do try to give their leads some character depth to work with but you still aren’t likely to care massively about what happens to whom. Some unintentional humour and charmingly risible moments generated from all the above doesn’t help either. Familiar tropes and story points remind you of superior examples of the genre, and ones you’d prefer to watch.

Still, it’s got enough in its favour to grant Abbey Grace a compliment. Durham tries to build mood and is able to generate a few effective beats, focusing away from relying on gore and simple loud noises to earn them. Abbey Grace manages some moments but ultimately relies too much on the obvious and shorthand genre cliché, so the end result is occasionally decent, often hackneyed, and overall inoffensive and inessential.

ABBEY GRACE / CERT: TBC / DIRECTOR: STEPHEN DURHAM / SCREENPLAY: DAVID DITTLINGER, STEPHEN DURHAM / STARRING: DEBBIE SHERIDAN, JACOB HOBBS, AMBER GALLAWAY, SEMI ANTHONY / RELEASE DATE: TBC

 


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