By Andrew Buckner
Rating: ****1/2 out of *****.
The Domicile (2017), from writer-director Jared Cohn, is a terrific paranormal suspense yarn. Produced through Traplight Pictures, the lean and efficient eighty-two-minute affair is situated around fictional playwright Russell Brody (in a mesmerizing and emotionally layered portrayal from Steve Richard Harris). After the sudden demise of his pregnant wife, Estella (in a stellar turn from Katherine Flannery), in the deftly executed and atmospheric opening of the feature, Cohn’s tale moves forward one year. Dealing with the troubled Samantha (in a phenomenal enactment from Amanda Ruth Ritchie), who spends the bulk of her time on-screen confined to her upstairs bedroom in Brody’s home, our central figure focuses his grief and devastation towards trying to replicate the success of his last play. Frustrated and desperate to escape via his literary pursuits, he uncovers alcohol helps fuel the quality of his storytelling. In a twist that heightens the wonderful alignment to both Stephen King’s brilliant 1977 novel, The Shining, and Stanley Kubrick’s same said film from 1980, this action aids in Brody’s distorted grasp on reality. Seeking advice from his collaborator on the project, David Stanley (in a riveting portrayal from Demetrius Stear), Brody attempts to rekindle his relationship with Lucy (in a magnificent representation from Sara Malukal Lane). She is a romantic entanglement from Brody’s past. It is than that the spectral form of Estella decides to make itself known through provocation and violence.
Cohn has crafted a wonderfully intriguing plot. It is one erected in the classic, slow-burn design of such genre efforts as Robert Wise’s The Haunting (1963) and Peter Medak’s The Changeling (1980). There are even touches of William Friedkin’s groundbreaking adaptation of William Peter Blatty’s 1971 best-seller, The Exorcist (1973). This is most noticeable in the harrowing moments involving Samantha which are spied primarily in the first act. Yet, the material doesn’t go the conventionally accepted route and use these aforesaid comparisons for fan service. It is engraved as an unspoken statement of the impeccably fashioned nature of Cohn’s meticulously paced script. This is also true of his mesmerizing guidance of the venture. These elements can also be witnessed in the deftly executed atmosphere of dread Cohn conjures throughout the entirety of this enigmatic exercise. The masterful manner with which Cohn toys with the idea of Brody’s obsessions pushing him towards madness give the undergoing a stirring, mind-bending component. Though a familiar trope in photoplays of this ilk, it victoriously transports viewers inside the increasingly unsure psyche of Cohn’s lead. The tried and true scares utilized within the exertion also endure as effective because of these previously addressed reasons. Recorded in Pasadena, California, the gorgeously honed essence of Cohn’s cinematic construction is complete with a satisfying, smirk-inducing finale. There is also an equally dazzling concluding credits bit.
From a technical standpoint, the movie also delivers. For example, Josh Maas’ dark and brooding cinematography is as impressive as it was in Cohn’s recent Locked Up (2017). The theme music by Ryan D. Wood and supplementary sonic compositions from Chase Kuker enhance the spellbinding, mood-draped pulse of the narrative immensely. Likewise, Chris Kaiser’s editing is sharp and seamless. The make-up, camera, lighting and sound squad contributions are spectacular. Simultaneously, the small roles are just as proficient as the stars of the endeavor. The potent depictions from Angela Nicolas as Bonnie, Cara Mitsuko as Grace and Todd Carroll as Julian augment this factor luminously. David Palmieri as Officer Thompson and Julian Bane as Officer White are just as good.
As is true of many other accounts of this genus, Cohn’s ethereal thriller is, at its heart, a character study. Luckily, this is also one of the strongest attributes of the chronicle. Brody’s transformation in personality throughout the presentation is gradual and believable. Simultaneously, Cohn is unafraid to paint him as a flawed individual. Such gives Brody added dimension and depth. It also makes him evermore relatable. When combined with the sly, quiet commentary on the struggles of being creative Cohn administers into the labor, which will assuredly appeal to artistic-minded spectators everywhere, Cohn’s latest works just as well as a psychological drama as it does an outing in fear. The result of these high-caliber qualities is an exceptional example of modern day horror. This cerebral, subtle and ambitious tour de force is among the best excursions of its type I have glimpsed all year.
The Domicile will be released on DVD August 22nd, 2017 through MTI Home Video. It will be available at Redbox and Family Video.