The House on Pine Street (2016)

house-on-pine-street“A psychological horror about a young woman coping with an unwanted pregnancy after moving into a seemingly haunted house.”

I can hardly believe it, but this one was actually pretty good. The House on Pine Street initially caught my eye because growing up my grandparents lived on a Pine Street, and who doesn’t love a movie that unintentionally references their own childhood? Right?

What surprises me most about this movie is that, for a simple idea and a limited budget, they’ve really pulled off something interesting. Directed by Aaron and Austin Keeling, who wrote the film with Natalie Jones, Pine Street manages to inject life into the bloated dead horse that is the haunted house movie. While the scares and set ups may seem a bit standard, I found their explanation to be the most interesting part of the story. With that said, this explanation is delivered through exposition in a literal parlor scene, but I’m prepared to let that slide.

The film centres around Jennifer and Luke, Emily Goss and Tyler Bottles respectively, who have just returned to Jennifer’s home town after she attempted to, or was going to attempt to, giver herself an abortion in their home in Chicago. Both actors are solid, even if their dialogue can occasionally slide over to the cliche or absurd. Their relationship dynamic is interesting, and you get a real sense of the tension that exists between them. The movie also addresses the fact that pregnancy is stressful, and terrifying, and relationships don’t become functional simply because someone is having a baby. I found this refreshing, in a bizarre way, it’s clear that the two love each other but their relationship feels deeply complicated as they try to navigate the changes in their lives.

Pine Street also stars Cathy Barnett as the hilariously cartoonish mother, Jim Korinke as the psychic chiropractor, and Natalie Pelligrin (Sharknado) as Jennifer’s friend from Chicago. What’s great about this cast is that so many of them are still quite new to acting professionally. There are a lot of nearly empty IMDB profiles for the actors, and they really do a great job with the script they were given.

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The movie has its fair share of problems to be sure, for some reason the filmmakers decided to work mostly in close-ups, rather than have a wider range of shots, so the movie at times feels a bit disorienting and bizarre. It could be a style choice, or a budgetary choice, but whatever the case, it doesn’t work especially well. The shots that aren’t close-ups on character’s faces are pretty well composed though, and do provide a nice balance to the shots that don’t work as well.

There is also the issue of some unnecessary story threads, particularly the story of the neighbour who’s daughters have opted to not speak, at all, for ten years. It feels like those characters have a different movie going on next door, and it doesn’t really add anything to Jennifer’s story, except when she escapes her home to hide at the neighbour’s. While it might be an interesting or spooky story, it’s not one that needed to be present here at all.

All told though, The House on Pine Street is an engaging enough movie with good atmosphere, and an interesting ending, and explanation. I will stay back from the spoilers, but suffice it to say that you could certainly do much worse than this movie.

MY RATING: ***

 

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