Thursday, October 27, 2011

31 Days of '81 Horror: The Nesting (Armand Weston)

Horror novelist Laura Cochran (Robin Groves) is facing writer’s block and emotional instability in her New York neighborhood. She can’t leave the apartment without having nervous convulsion that her psychiatrist diagnoses as a case of agoraphobia. His recommendation is for her to get away from the big city (though that would seem a difficult task for an agoraphobic, but blah, logic) and she finds an old large abandoned and house in a small isolated lakeside town that she rents with the intention of fixing up. Shortly though, as is apt to happen in old large abandoned houses, especially one that we learn in the first sequence was the site of a post-World War II slaughter (the second 1981 horror film to open with murders involving homecoming WWII soldiers discussed here, the first being The Prowler), strange occurrences plague the writer. She has even more intense dreams, flashbacks of the houses past incarnation as a brothel, and visions of a faceless woman. What does the history of the house have to do with Laura? And why does it seem to manifest itself into terror to the ones that attempt to do her harm?

A case of decent parts adding up to a meh sum, The Nesting never really capitalizes on its potential. A haunted house story always leads to the inevitable suspension of disbelief in the viewer of why the person or persons doesn’t just leave (see Eddie Murphy’s routine about Amityville Horror in Delirious), however, with an agoraphobic lead character, the possibility for torment not only is more intense, but creates a self-writing character arc. Unfortunately, once she’s arrived in the new place, the agoraphobia issue is never again mentioned. The central resolution of the mystery is compelling, but that too is botched by just being revealed via an exposition heavy monologue (albeit by the awesome John Carradine) and a flashback that just serves as an addendum to the story instead of part of it. Director Armand Weston does a decent job, and there’s a good scythe to the face murder, but he mainly relies on old genre generic scare tactics like old phonographs playing themselves, windows shuttering and creaking hardwood floors. The central location is a scouting location coup though, and has great ambience, it would well serve a better film.

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