"She was born a bad seed..."
ABBEY GRACE, from director Stephen Durham (BLOOD LINES), is a film that in no way struggles with what it wants to be. The supernatural film finds its home in a narrative style similar to MAMA or THE OTHERS, but fails to deliver in substance, scares or originality. Durham's second directorial effort stars a small ensemble cast that tells the story of Stacey, a woman who has left her career in the psychiatric field to care for her brother, Ben, after their mother passes from an undisclosed cause. Ben suffers from a severe case of agoraphobia and OCD, and Stacey is writing a book on what we are led to assume are her brother's conditions, however the topic is grazed upon once or twice but not touched on again.
By and large, the film has a 2 person cast: Debbie Sheridan (Stacey) and Jacob Hobbs (Ben), who unfortunately, do little to contribute to the film. While Jacob Hobbs was not necessarily a bad actor, I feel that most of the issues with his performance probably come from poor direction, his portrayal of someone suffering from severe OCD and Agoraphobia seemed poorly researched and more stereotypical than accurate. For someone to suffer from these disorders as severely as Ben apparently does, Hobbs made several decisions that surprised me and the ending of the film was wholly unrealistic. As I mentioned though, I feel that these are issues that are more to blame with the direction or the writing. Very little emphasis was placed on the strides that Ben was supposedly making, and in that regard, I feel that Hobbs talent was largely wasted in this project. Sheridan's performance was rather uninspired, giving the film the feel of a high school project, in which she was the director's mom who got a little too excited about starring in the film.
The sound design was sloppy, often taking me out of the film, and was frustrating at times. It was very difficult to understand the dialogue for the final 20 minutes of the film, and I was often left wondering how a dog's rope toy was making squeaky noises. When additional characters are finally introduced into the film in the second act, I was hoping that it would inject fresh air into the film, however it merely reinforced the ideas that were already forming in my mind: that every supernatural, haunted house trope was tacked to a wall and Durham used a spool of twine to tie them all together. As a result, any attempt to tie a deeper mythology into the film just ended up falling on it's face as there wasn't enough time to fully explore the backstory that Durham was attempting to get across.
While I feel as if I'm tearing this film apart (and I honestly never want to do that), it's hard to find things to praise. The film was most likely slapped together and rushed into distribution, and I feel that it shows a little too well. From the subpar performances, to the poor production quality (even the marketing materials spells the main character's name incorrectly several times), I cannot recommend this film to friends, family or strangers. But hey, at least Roach, the dog actor, delivered a solid performance!