REVIEW: THE ATTIC / CERT: 18 / DIRECTOR: JOSH STOLBERG / SCREENPLAY: JOSH STOLBERG, NICK TAVARELLA / STARRING: RALEIGH HOLMES, LORI LOUGHLIN, JONATHAN SILVERMAN, DAVID KOECHNER / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
We all love a good drinking game. The Attic (aka Crawlspace) offers up a doozy: knock back a shot every time a lead character, creeping about in the dark, is – eek! – surprised by someone who jumps out at them but who turns out be their dad/friend/boyfriend/neighbour. But be warned; you’re very likely to need your stomach pumped if you’re still in the game by the end of the movie; director Stolberg shamelessly uses this hoary, cheesy old jump-scare tactic seven or eight times throughout the film to the extent that it quickly stops being funny and starts to get just a bit absurd. Which is a shame because The Attic is actually a surprisingly tense and accomplished psychological thriller rather than a cheap and derivative horror quickie. Boo!!! (Ha ha, it’s only me!)
The Gates, a cheery American everyman family, move into their fabulous new dream home but all is not well. The previous owners vacated the premises in disturbing circumstances after the family’s two young kids drowned in the swimming pool. But it seems that perhaps the house hasn’t been completely vacated because, up in the attic (or crawlspace), someone is watching the family’s every move with beady eyes. And he ain’t happy to see his home occupied by a happy, well-adjusted family unit…
The Attic is a chirpy little movie which presents its ‘bad guy’ – Steve Weber’s Aldon Webber – not as some mindless psychopathic slayer but as a damaged, grief-stricken man who’s lost sight of his own sanity. This doesn’t, of course, excuse his behaviour as he quietly terrorises the Gates family and calmly removes anyone who gets in his way, but it does at least make him a slightly more sympathetic figure than we might be expecting. Webber offs his victims in increasingly inventive ways; death by hoover, death by waste disposal and death by Christmas decorations are just three of the methods of execution delivered in Stolberg’s tight, sharp script. In fact, the script is very much the star here and Stolberg’s taken the hokey ‘hider in the house’ horror cliché and resuscitated it courtesy of a pacey narrative which never flags or drags, naturalistic dialogue performed with gusto by the likeable cast (newcomer Raleigh Holmes is one to watch as the family’s college-age daughter Kayla who carries most of the big dramatic moments) and a rounded and satisfying denouement which neatly wraps up the story whilst offering up room for a sequel or two.
Notwithstanding a few nasty graphic death sequences, The Attic isn’t especially scary but then, despite its cheapjack UK DVD sleeve promising an entirely different sort of movie, The Attic really isn’t out to deliver cheap thrills for the Saturday night horror crowd. It’s subtler, classier and better than that. Waaah. (Only me again…)