Feature Review - The Baylock Residence
By midlandsmovies, Jun 18 2017 12:36PM
The Baylock Residence (2017)
Dir. Anthony Michael Winson
Mr. Stitch Films
A rainy intro with vintage bombers opens this new horror feature directed by Anthony M. Winson who, and we haven’t seen this too often in the Midlands, has actually taken a second ‘stab’ at a story he’s made once before. With a number of other fright films already under his belt also, Winson again turns his hand to a haunted house, this time in England during 1944.
A great minimal piano score from David Beard whisks us away to war-time Britain and the low-budget feature includes some solid plane special effects as well as a street destroyed in the Blitz.
After tragedy strikes Mrs. Baylock, her sister Patricia Woodhouse inherits her home and the film throws us in to some good character development and acting between Kelly Goudie as the sibling and the ambiguous Annabelle (Sarah Wynne Kordas) who is the housekeeper.
The suitably spooky music compliments the narrative and as the mystery deepens we get some ghostly going-ons including the appearance of a paranormal entity manifested as a darkly suited man in a hat.
The film intersperses a few (too many) dream sequences which threw me off the narrative, which otherwise is very well told. I knew what was going on at all times and the characters are clear and well-defined with some even defying their dark introductions. With clever manipulation, the filmmakers lead the audience into a false sense of security as we are unsure as to everyone’s true motivations and background.
That said, however good the narrative is, it is disappointingly delivered almost entirely by the two characters in dialogue. This could have been done with more variety (flashbacks or voiceovers perhaps) to give information about the past to the audience. In addition, a few more supporting characters would be useful even, as the film is almost entirely a two-character story which although well-focused, did get a bit tiresome.
As the film moves onward, a padlocked attic hints at more sinister themes and the scares come in the form of closing doors, hinted apparitions and tight editing. One particular good sequence has lightning revealing-then-hiding a figure in a room with the protagonist unaware of their presence.
The movie is well-lit but could easily have been a bit darker as the light rooms and corridors of the house, whilst very well recreated by the set designer, are quite bright and work against the morbid themes. Baylock Residence understands its genre well though and uses a number of familiar horror tropes – eerie gramophone, creaky stairwells, flickering lights and graveyards – and the terror increases to its conclusion as mysterious spirits become more malevolent in their actions.
From poltergeist scenes of moving objects to a ghostly ‘slapping’ sequence, the director throws everything he can into the story helping maintain a variety of dramatic sequences. The variety didn’t extend as far as some of the shot choices though. Some more moving camera would have helped as the film is almost entirely locked off static shots. A few different styles would have kept it more visually interesting but I never felt it dragged in a swift but solid 1 hour 20 minute runtime. I’ve found local features all too keen to hit the Hollywood 2-hour mark yet so often have a lack of story and footage to justify that time. No such qualms here.
The film has a feeling of unease as actors are pushed to the edge of the camera frame, although at times I wanted to straighten the shots to focus on the drama, but it did help portray the confusing and haunting visions nicely.
The costume and make-up should also be highlighted as a great asset as they are era-perfect recreations and the wardrobe helped sell the historical setting brilliantly, which must have been hard to do on a low budget.
As Investigations uncover more family truths, we are jolted along to the story’s conclusion and are finally treated to a flashback which involves flapper girls from the past. As they deliver a musical number (!) which mixed up the style, I only wished there were more risks like that taken throughout.
Baylock Residence then is a fine treat for fans of terror and dread and the film’s techniques and delivery have more in common with The Exorcist – a slow build, suburban setting and atmospheric tension – than they do with more modern jump-scare horrors like Insidious and their ilk. And this is massively to the movie’s advantage as it shows a unique 70s style influence. So those willing to stick with Baylock Residence’s old fashioned-inspired delivery will therefore be rewarded by the charms of its classic chills.
Midlands Movies Mike