I always wondered how I would feel if I moved into a haunted house. Of course, I would be terrified, but if I could survive it I would at least want there to be a story, a reason, a plot, behind the horrors and monsters that dwell inside. Unfortunately, James and Jon Kondelik do a disservice to the Harper family in BEHIND THE WALLS by robbing them (and more importantly- robbing us) from rhyme or reason.
Kathy Harper (Vanessa Angel) and her three kids open the door to their new home. Where they see a barren, creaky, old house with horrible glare issues, the audience sees endless vent tunnel crawl spaces consumed by flurries of dust particles. Either way, I would have second guessed the move already. It isn’t long until we get our first jump scare and we realize that the family is aware that something is watching them behind the vents, but it is unclear when that starts to happen.
Although Kathy makes it seem like this is their new forever home, it is not long until her boss, Rick (Reggie Lee), comes over in hopes to promote her so that they can potentially move out. When Rick enters, we get our first glimpse into the house’s possessiveness over the family. Poorly acted and uncomfortable interactions between stranger and kids are broken up by possessed toy cars, gory hallucinations, and a delightful reaction to a closet door mutilating Rick’s hand. Let’s just say that Kathy did not get her promotion and thus their chance to move out.
From the start, Kathy emphasizes to her kids that they are not allowed out of the house or to talk to any strangers (except Rick?), especially their father. Already we can assume that the dad will show up later or at least have something to do with the evils that lurk behind these walls – but don’t hold your breath. This movie is compiled of jagged scenes, see-sawing between present day and flashbacks set in dramatic black backdrops to showcase the domestic abuse between husband and wife. The kids, however, seem to know nothing about their dad’s whereabouts and why they can’t see him or anyone else for that matter. The entire movie is set up to have a big dad related reveal of the monster lurking behind the vents, or even worse, the life force pumping out from the basement wall. This reveal would be the only redemption to the movie but instead its obscurity made the entire dad plot line (one of the MAIN plot lines) completely irrelevant.
Visually, BEHIND THE WALLS is dingy and washed out. The Kondelik brothers try to take artistic liberties with scenes like water splashing against a black backdrop to transition into a shower scene. These come across as attempts to create an aesthetically eerie film, but with frequently disjointed scenes it doesn’t take. It is possible that the problem lies more with the sound mix. A shrieking ambiance flows throughout the film, which simply obscures the dialogue rather than keep us on edge.
I can’t say I was surprised with my reaction to BEHIND THE WALLS. I did reserve some hope, though, for a somewhat clean and predictable ending. Unfortunately, I can’t promise you that but I can promise that I won’t hold out for a sequel.
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