The Rasmussen Brothers, Michael and Shawn, are best known for writing John Carpenter’s The Ward – a film that has been collecting virtual dust in my Netflix queue for a very long time. (I’ll get around to it…eventually.) Descriptions for The Ward mention a ghost. Apparently, ghost stories are the Rasmussen’s forte (which, I’m told is pronounced fort, but that doesn’t seem right) because their latest work, The Inhabitants, also has ghosts. And witches (and witch’s teets). And pervy innkeepers. And asshole teenagers. It’s enough to keep us guessing until the very end.
A young couple moves into a 300+ year old house that has been used as a bed and breakfast for the past few decades. The old woman previous owner is moving to an assisted living facility. She offers some strange advice that the couple shrugs off because of her obvious dementia. After a puzzling night in the inn, the young woman begins to act very aloof toward her husband. Separately, they discover some troubling things about the place – weird old medical type devices in the basement, hidden cameras in almost every room, passageways between the walls, connections to a burned-at-the-stake witch, etc. As the wife’s behavior becomes increasingly discomfiting, the husband plays amateur detective in an effort to find out what exactly her deal is. Turns out her deal is otherworldly in origin. And it’s all tied to this old house. (more like, BOO Villa! I’m sorry. I promise I will never make a terribly outdated Bob Vila pun again.)
The Inhabitants features some genuinely scary moments. The film is particularly effective when it relies on subtlety. A dimly visible ghost in the background darkness or a few dark moths scare much more than, say, a brightly-lit, painted-faced Darth Maul looking demon(?) popping up over a character’s shoulder (you know the one.) The Inhabitants has plenty of these types of scares – effective, eerie, and tension building. (It also has a few jump scares and cringe-worthy lunging CGI ghost faces, but not too many). Overall, I was very impressed with this low-budget chiller. The Rasmussens have crafted an unnerving atmosphere in the film with high contrast photography and terse dialogue. That’s not to say that it didn’t have its problems. The story gets a little convoluted at times with the history of the house, a witch/midwife and her ghost kids, the possible possession of the modern day woman, the CCTV setup in the attic, etc. There is some abysmal acting in some scenes (intro scene, I’m looking at you). And some of the dialogue suffers from that looks-good-on-paper-but-is-weird-IRL problem that so many movies and TV shows suffer from. For example, the couple’s lack of communication. I mean, when my wife is sullen, I know INSTANTLY. (Hell, if a coworker is pissy I figure that out pretty quickly.) In the script, not picking up on your wife’s possession may look normal, but when it plays out in the film, it just doesn’t work. But, as I’ve mentioned before, we’ve come to accept that our beloved low-budget genre films come with these types of hiccups more often than not. And we’re willing to overlook them as long as we’re entertained and/or frightened. The Rasmussens have at least reached those goals.
THE FINAL CUT: The Inhabitants is an atmospheric (mostly) ghost story that beats out some of the recent ghost movies in the scares department. It has its problems, but it’s worth checking out. In the night. In the dark. (reference to another ghost movie!)