Every now and then I, along with I guess all Netflix subscribers, get the “Hey yo we just added a movie that you might like!” email. Their track record with me has been, let’s say spotty. They have definitely fired over recommendations for both of Adam Sandler’s Netflix originals. I took them up on their offer for The Do-Over and Netflix better feel bad about that one. On Friday however, their email intrigued me. They were pimping a Netflix original called I Am The Pretty Thing That Lives in the House, a title I will absolutely not be typing out in its entirety for the rest of this review.
The name simultaneously intrigued me and turned me off. Let’s be real, that is a pretentious ass title for a movie. It promised me a ghost and a spooky house though, and I haven’t really had either of those in any of the movies I’ve watched this month. Plus, I couldn’t recall if Netflix has thrown their weight behind a horror movie before. So I decided to take them up on their recommendation!
Lily is the titular pretty thing and she has been hired to be the live-in nurse for a former horror novel writer, Iris Blum. Lily is a self-admitted coward who is too scared to even crack open one of Iris’s books. Over time though, she begins to suspect that a murder that had occurred in the home is the basis for one of Iris’ novels, The Lady in the Wall. Also a ghost may or not be happening too. There’s a lot of other stuff going on as well, with lots of parallels being drawn between Lily, and the protagonist in Iris’s book, Polly. There’s also flashbacks that may or may not be flashbacks. They could be dreams or hallucinations and people are always talking in poems. It’s that kind of movie, where nobody speaks like a real human being but instead are constantly saying introspective things about ghosts and death. You know, smart people talk.
When people say a movie isn’t for everybody, this is exactly the kind of movie they are talking about. It is as slow of a burn as you could perhaps ever get from a horror movie. There have been other movies this month I’ve classified as slow burners that take their time getting to the big moments and reveals. This one eschews that by being a slow burn that continues to slowly burn right up until the end credits roll. The pay-off is made clear by Lily in the opening moments of the film, so there is never any doubt where things are heading. That means it’s more about the journey than the destination and that journey is akin to walking behind two elderly people who are next to each other on the sidewalk and are impossible to get around. You really want to get to where you’re going but an outside source clearly has no intention of letting that happen. So eventually you give up and accept that well, I guess I’m not getting where I’m going anytime soon.
Pretty Thing (that’s what I’ll be referring to as from now on) does not feature any of the things you may expect in your ghost stories. There’s no gore or violence, which isn’t all that surprising. There is only one mild jump scare in the whole movie. Honestly there isn’t even that much screen time devoted to any actual ghosts. This one is all about atmosphere and mood. It’s about darkened rooms and snowy TV screens and the sense of dread that death is lurking about in this house. It’s the definition of a movie that believes the less you see, the scarier it is. I absolutely believe there is merit in that concept, and there are absolutely some chilling moments in this movie, but Pretty Things required a level of patience I was not fully willing to provide it.
This is a movie I respected more than I actually enjoyed. It’s a very confident film, not afraid to do its own thing and it has no interest in catering to what audiences may expect out of a typical haunted house film. There’s some smart writing and fine performances, but I still found myself checking how long I had left to go before the credits, and in a movie that’s less than 90 minutes, that’s never a good sign. I’m not saying don’t watch it because in the right mood I think it could be borderline brilliant, but Friday night me was not too into it.