For filmmakers, a beleaguered central character crippled by grief following the death of a loved one is fertile ground. And within the horror genre, more fertile still, with endless spooks, ghouls and supernatural suffering rendered possible by including a suffering spouse. With The Domicile the inclusion of just one of those possibilities would likely have been enough.
One-time successful playwright Russell (Harris) begins to experience strange occurrences following the “accidental” death of his wife Estella (Flannery) and their unborn twins. Encouraged by his co-writer David (Stear), who’s counsel is often narcissistic and rarely advisable, Russell contacts an old flame in search of a muse. Suffice to say, that doesn’t go well.
A prolific genre actor and filmmaker, writer and director Jared Cohn certainly knows and understands how to construct a horror movie. Jump scares and out-of-focus shadowy figures provide regular trigger-points throughout The Domicile, and are utilised in such a way as to be largely effective. A quick cut here and there, with some suitably suspenseful scoring ticks off another trope or two, and Cohn also manages to include enough gore to satisfy those audiences more inclined towards the bloodier side of things. And there is enough moody lighting to fill a whole series of films.
The problem is that Cohn has dipped too many times into the genre box of tricks and as such The Domicile plays out more like a game of horror bingo. Everything from children’s laughter to creaking doors is thrown into the mix, and as the story progresses it becomes increasingly confusing as to who is haunting who, and for why. A shadowy, mysterious figure that seems to facilitate the whole affair is a constant throughout, throw in the skulking, zombie-like figure of the dead wife, mix in a little demonic possession for good measure, and what you have is a heady soup of malevolent ingredients battling for attention. Each of these individual elements would have sufficed, providing a less-is-more, much creepier experience as by the end everything feels somewhat overwrought.
There is no doubt Cohn in a good filmmaker, and The Domicile contains genuine moments of invention and fright, but the story fails to support the numerous genre beats, and the finale, while both exuberantly grisly and undoubtedly shocking, never feels truly earned. Ambiguity is wonderful if used well, but here there is too little exposition, leaving the viewing experience rather flat and confused.
THE DOMICILE / CERT: TBC / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: JARED COHN / STARRING: STEVE RICHARD HARRIS, KATHERINE FLANNERY, DEMETRIUS STEAR / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW (USA); UK RELEASE TBA