dir. Oliver Park
Returning home for the first time in years, prodigal son Art (Nick Blood) finds himself surrounded by the Orthodox Jewish culture of his childhood. It’s an experience that’s both familiar and steeped in ritual, and – in the figure of his funeral director father (Allan Corduner) – one with a painful history. But when the body of a local scholar is brought in, apparently having committed suicide during an occult ceremony, it’s not just the past which has its demons.
There are interesting ideas underpinning director Park’s feature debut, not least the rich portrayal of the Orthodox Jewish community in Brooklyn. From unctuous meals to religious ceremonies and culture-specifiic dialogue, this is a world that has been under-represented on screen, particularly in horror cinema. As such it’s thrilling to spend time here, with Corduner in particular exuding a storied, paternalistic warmth.
Less successful are the stock supernatural shenanigans which begin to haunt the funeral home, and although some scares are well orchestrated – a tall figure behind swinging doors stands out – this is sub-Conjuring stuff, complete with ghost children and CGI goat-ghouls. Worse still these standard set-pieces gradually occlude the more engaging, Jewish aspects of the story, with the third act proposing a vast array of plot strands without successfully landing any of them. The result is unfocussed, with the compelling portrayal of culture reduced to little more than a foil for a disappointingly generic spook story.
© Tim Coleman