by Christie Robb
The Inhabitants is a hodgepodge of horror elements cut and sewn awkwardly together to create a film that isn’t particularly scary and lacks thematic consistency.
But what a good location! The movie was filmed inside the Noyes-Parris House, formerly owned by the father of one of the girls who kicked off the Salem Witchcraft Trials. As such, you come in expecting a certain degree of paranoid atmosphere and the use of witchy tropes.
The story follows a young couple that decides to buy and renovate an old bed and breakfast. The screenwriters make no real attempt to explain how the couple can possibly afford the place or what exactly their goals for it are, but it’s hard to quibble with that issue when the acting quality and opening credit sequence has you squinching up in your seat—not from fear or anticipation, but from a justified suspicion that you’ve accidentally stumbled into a horror movie porn parody, given the minutes of static-y black and white footage featuring folks disrobing, bathing, and humping.
But, the movie then switches tone.
We are introduced to the main leads, who do somewhat exude the sense of ennui of two porn stars well into a long day of shooting, but after the odd soft-core porn sequence, the film covers up the skin and lurches along for another 80 minutes that drag like an ill-sewn leg on a reanimated cadaver.
The wife, Jessica, finds out that the original owner of the house was a midwife, tried and executed for witchcraft. Set in a historical location with ties to the famous trials, midwife/witch in the mix, even with the acting…I’m on board.
But, instead of focusing on this theme, the film tries to incite scares by randomly throwing elements at you that just don’t work or really seem to belong in the same movie, like the bank of AV equipment that allows the husband to spy on Jessica’s increasingly weird antics (but that undermines the likability of the husband), or the smokers in the woods that are intended to seem menacing (but just seem like furtive high school kids with a mild addiction to nicotine), or the dog that appears abruptly and seems attuned to the possible presences in the house (but then disappears unceremoniously), or the ghost Jessica sees…in the washing machine (washing machines aren’t scary).
Despite having access to the famous house, the setting and history of Salem is rather absent save for a brief trip to the Ye Olde Witch Museum. This trip, however, is nicely balanced by the couple’s trip into town…to grocery shop at Whole Foods.
This broke the sense of isolation and vulnerability that the directors were trying to achieve. My suspension of disbelief was shattered as soon as I saw the logo on that paper bag. Do not send your characters to Whole Foods unless you want us to be biting our fingernails worrying about their food budget.
Not bad enough to drunk-watch with friends, I suggest passing on this one. It’s not worth gathering the pitchforks and torches.