Reunion (15) | Close-Up Film Review

Dir. Jake Mahaffy, New Zealand, 2020, 95 mins

Cast: Julia Ormond, Emma Draper, John Bach

Review by Colin Dibben

This immaculately shot and edited horror film breathes anxious, putrid life into the haunted house/domestic abuse sub-genre.

Pregnant, tormented Ellie (Draper) comes home to practical mum Ivy (Ormond) when she finds it hard to cope. Ivy is busy preparing the dark, cluttered house that Ellie grew up in for sale. She is also caring for demented dad Jack (Bach).

But Ivy isn’t the staunch support that Ellie expects. Ivy flits around the house, packing things into boxes that she mislabels, locking doors behind her … her flurries of activity are a bit unhinged when Ellie stops to think about it.

And Ellie herself is haunted by visions from her childhood, when her parents were foster parents to lovely, tragic Cara.

What secrets from the past does the house hold? And how far will Ivy go to protect Ellie from her own memories?

Reunion builds on the ‘old dark house’ feel of Natalie Erika James’ recent Relic, but intensifies the feeling that one family’s history can be read in the dusty and decaying objects around a home.

Dark wooden interiors are glimpsed through heavy doors. Boxes are piled dangerously on top of each other. It is overcast or raining all the time. The house runs on low-watt lightbulbs. But such is the power of digital that the detailed clutter of the house shines luminescently through the gloom.

The clutter of the house is curated by Ivy’s distracted, cluttered mind. Ormond comes across as a sort of avatar of the things in the house, struggling to assert their identity in the face of the enveloping murk.

Ivy is pathologically over-protective but it is testament to Ormond’s talent that her motives come across sympathetically. This feeling of sympathy is even more remarkable when you consider that she flits in and out of every almost shot in a sort of barely restrained panic. Ivy is always on the way to somewhere else, too busy doing something in another room to look after Ellie properly. How does an actor build this kind of performance?

The whole film is disturbingly immersive, owing to the shooting and editing style and the development of the characters as themselves intense objects in the house.

Of course, the growing feeling of anxiety and dread is more unsettling than the final revelation, although this too is nicely done, with just the right amount of obliquity in the reveal.

Trailer:

Reunion is out on digital on 22 March.