Courtesy of Dark Sky Films

REUNION, directed by Jake Mahaffy, is a psychological ghost story about the secrets of a small family in New Zealand as a daughter returns home. REUNION stars Julia Ormond, Emma Draper, and John Bach.

Timid and quiet Ellie (Emma Draper) reluctantly returns to her childhood home while it’s in the process of being packed and sold by her mother, Ivy (Julia Ormond). Pregnant and vulnerable, Ellie hopes to find closure to the hidden secrets of her past.

While in the process of writing a book about medieval scientific vs magical medicine, her research begins to blur with her memories and she begins to encounter the ghost of her dead sister. Unsure if it’s just stress or something else, she starts uncovering the deeper and darker secrets of her overbearing mother, her aging father, and her own mysterious past.

The visuals are beautiful (Adam Luxton) and the house itself becomes a character, rather than just a backdrop. The acting was wonderful, especially Julia Ormond and John Bach. Bach’s performance could have gone south quickly as the aging, dementia-suffering father, but he manages it with grace. It’s a role that can either make or break the atmosphere, and in REUNION, his performance makes it.

Another kudos belongs to Steven Lord and Tim Oxton for their soundtrack which was both subtle and also disconcerting, depending on the scene. Both wistfully electronic and tonally twisted, it flows well and into each scene without being repetitive.

Julia Ormond and Emma Draper in REUNION

I’ll be honest, though, this film hurt me because it has so much potential. It’s an incredibly slow build, with not many scares along the way. There’s a plot point that involves blackish earwax is what I’m saying. It’s so incredibly slow and flat for most of the movie, which I understand why (we learn at the reveal), but it doesn’t make for very memorable cinema. While I was watching for about an hour, I wrote down, “a slow burn with no real oomph” and “for horror fans, it won’t be very remarkable, but maybe a good movie for non-horror fans…”

And then it went from a subtle 2.5 to a bonkers 11 for the last fifteen minutes. My mouth was agape as there was a major twist to the movie and I watched the utter chaos unfold.

And it hurts because if we had more of that during the movie, it could have easily made it much more engaging. I’m not saying dumb it down, but I think the set-up does not equal the pay-off. We needed more of a build up and character development of Ellie for REUNION to feel more well-rounded as a movie. It was like watching a beautiful painting of a house dry and then after seventy minutes, a bloody fist punches through with a severed head. There needs to be more of a build up for that to have a connection to each other.

But props to a movie that has the quote, “Don’t tell me to calm down, you’re boiling the cauliflower!”

Bottomline: Slow-burners will hate the ending, action-seekers will hate everything else. Split it down the middle. Watch the first twenty minutes and then fast forward to the last fifteen minutes and you’ll get most of the movie. REUNION is now in theaters and available on VOD/Digital Platforms.

J.M. Brannyk
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