Over the past view years, the Rasmussen brothers have made quite the stir in the horror community. With several films now under their belt including 2005’s Long Distance, 2013’s Dark Feed, and writing credits for John Capenter’s 2010 film The Ward, they have established themselves as both writers and directors of indie and mainstream films. Pretty impressive resumé if I do say so myself! I recently had the pleasure of viewing the latest film from Michael and Shawn Rasmussen, The Inhabitants, which is another impressive entry into their list of works.
It’s a classic New England ghost story. Husband and Wife Jessica (Elise Couture) and Dan (Michael Reed) have just purchased a cute little bed & breakfast fulfilling their lifelong dream. I know what you’re thinking, “Buying a bed and breakfast in this economy?!” But Jessica and Dan are a cut above your average newlyweds. Already they are prove to be quite a brave couple.
However, this is no episode of HGTV’s Fixer-Upper. This is a ghost-story. A sense of foreboding is established immediately as the couple meets the previous owner of the house, a senile old woman who is off to the nursing home. Buh-bye! Similarly, shortly after moving in, Jessica experiences some strange, other-worldly occurrences while Dan is away on a business trip. And finally, at the end of the day, the house is in New England which is already a pretty terrifying place. Things aren’t looking like they’re gonna end up well for the happy couple.
The plot of the film is nothing new and frequently the film falls prey to the familiar haunted house tropes. Similarly, despite being good actors, the chemistry between Couture and Reed oftentimes feels forced and even dull. However, if you look past these failings, what you will find is a film that is firmly rooted in atmosphere, melodrama, and effective, slow-burn storytelling.
Beautifully shot in the New England countryside, the film’s setting is the Noyes-Parris House (c. 1669). One of the oldest in New England, the house was formerly owned by the notorious Rev. Samuel Parris whose daughter Betty Parris and niece Abigail Williams made the initial accusations during the Salem Witch Trials. True teenage role models. R.I.P. But seriously, like what the hell. You could not find a better location.
Through its slow-burn narrative, the film gradually and deliberately builds up an almost unbearable amount tension. The Inhabitants draws many influences from films like The Shining, The House of the Devil, Let’s Scare Jessica to Death, The Orphanage, and The Wicker Man. All of these films turn away from constant and cheap jump-scares and instead allow the film to breathe, the narrative to build, and for the terror to set in. Slow-burn horror films do require a bit of patience from the viewer, but the end result is something that digs itself so far under your skin that it becomes impossible to get out.
It is in this narrative style and the impressive location that the Rasmussen brother’s The Inhabitants, finds great success. The accumulation of fog and isolation, the hidden rooms of the old house and the close-up shots throughout, the Rasmussen brothers succeed in creating a film that is claustrophobic and eerily atmospheric. It is a modern film inspired by classic ghost stories and gothic melodrama that, despite its flaws, terrifies in a nuanced and poignant way. No, The Inhabitants is not a revolutionary film, nor does it add too much to the well-established genre. But it is a solid entry into the genre and is an exemplary film on the use of location and how to create atmosphere, which should not be overlooked.
Review by: Alex Schultz