Crazy low-light texture, the picture swimming in so much grain that you can’t tell if things in the rooms are moving or not. Perverse framing from angles that rarely show the characters. Doors and windows appear and disappear, leaving blank walls with a humming sound. Mention of the boy having fallen down the stairs while sleepwalking, back now from the hospital, though we don’t see any of this. He takes a break from watching public domain cartoons (The Cobweb Hotel) to visit the master bedroom, where dad is blairwitching and vanishing like the windows, replaced by mom. Most dialogue is whispered, and the jump scares are bad. A distant doom voice orders Kevin to sleep. Scene in a cartoon where a character disappears plays on loop to demonstrate a point before a toy in the room also disappears.
Movie itself isn’t scary, but it productively made me remember actual nightmares I had as a kid… the sense of being in a dark house with strange light where time and space can’t be trusted. It rules that this barely-narrative experimental nightmare was in theaters for a month.
The dread that pulses through the filmâ€™s empty spaces soon gives way to a permeating melancholy, as it becomes clearer just how helpless Kevin and Kaylee are within their own home. Toys and cartoons, at first objects of childish comfort, begin to be manipulated by the malevolent force within the house, reminders of the fear induced by pseudo-parental control. Time in the house becomes deliberately indefinite to create a perpetual night, a horrific extension of Kevin and Kayleeâ€™s daily reality.