Review: I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House, a lady in the walls

Osgood Perkins’ slow-burning ghost story I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House is a horror movie that forgot to be a horror movie—void of any real scares, Perkins’ sophomore effort is all about exposition and building atmospheric tension within the walls of an old home. The problem, however, is that the film never does anything interesting (or even remotely scary) with all the tension it so meticulously creates. The film follows Lily, a young nurse hired to care for elderly Helen Bloom, a best-selling author of ghost stories who has chosen to live out her final days in her beloved country home—a home that holds an horrific ghost story of its own.

Outside of the first 10 minutes, there’s nothing engaging about the story or its two characters (one of which is hardly in the movie at all), so we’re basically left with watching a girl—one that’s scared of her own shadow—meander throughout an elderly woman’s home for a year. While she’s there she starts to piece together the story of a ghost, ripped from the very pages of a book, that’s been haunting the home for years. The concept is great, sure, and it’s immediately intriguing, but after 90-minutes of nothing happening and an ending that can only be described as weak, I have to call bullshit on this one.

If there’s anything I did like about Pretty Thing, however, is Perkins’ take on a genre that’s as old as horror itself—it’s this quiet, poised little haunted house tale that does a wonderful job of capturing that feeling of being in a strange home by yourself. The soundtrack isn’t overbearing like most horror movies, as it just barely scratches at the background of the film. It’s understated in a way that made the home to come to life and it actually amplified those mysterious bumps in the night. But for the same reason you don’t make comedies without humor or action movies without thrills, Pretty Thing desperately needed something scary to make the narrative engaging. I just don’t get what the movie was trying to say, or do, because the entire thing felt lost and hollow.

The movie is always building towards something, but what that something is I don’t really know because it has no meaningful outcome. It feels like a traditional ghost story just without any real sense of direction (or horror). And because it’s missing those elements that make a horror movie a horror movie—it never instills those feelings of dread or panic, terror or distress—Pretty Thing ultimately feels as empty and lifeless as the very ghost that haunts the story.

2/5

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If you are ever attacked by a gorilla just sit back and relax while you enjoy the once in a life time feeling of your limbs being ripped off.

23 thoughts on “Review: I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House, a lady in the walls

    1. You’re one of the lucky few to have actually seen that movie. I hate that it’s been delayed so long, especially after such a good response. Was not a fan of this movie, however, so I’m curious to see what you think of it.

      1. Yeah, I was really shocked to hear A24 had pushed it back to February. Deserves better than that.

        The reviews I’ve read for PRETTY THING have been mixed, and it sounds like it’s probably not going to be my thing. I’m definitely tempering my expectations.

      2. That’s a good call. It’s certainly not the film I was expecting. If you don’t review it, hit me up in here at let me know what you thought!

  1. I actually enjoyed this film. It’s a step back in it is a step back in the genre. Simplicity is the charm of this movie. The quiet silence and the beautiful imagery amplifies more intense moments of the film.

    It is a simple story of a haunted house. If I were to define this film it would be “minimalistic horror” and it a refreshing retreat from more modern additions to the horror genre.

    1. You’re certainly right about that—it is very different from a lot of what you see out of the other haunted house movies being made today and for that I can definitely see the appeal. I, too, liked the quietness of the film and the focus on creepy imagery. Thanks for the comment!

  2. I gotta disagree with you here. I thought it felt like a poetic nightmare. It was more of an elegant chiller then thriller, but I found myself getting lost in it… I felt totally uneasy watching this… and come on that epic primal scream was earth shattering!

    1. Glad you dug this one! It seems to be one of the more polarizing horror films this year. I’ve been seeing some interesting takes (and responses) to this one so far. It just didn’t quite work for me, unfortunately.

      1. Normally I am not a huge fan of those arty farty horrors (ahem, Darling) but this one does creepy really well.. and of course it’s got a bit of vintage flair which I personally love anything vintage.

      2. Oh, absolutely. The movie has style for days, and I too really liked that about it. I’ll be looking forward to reading your review (if you’re writing one)!

  3. I came back here to see how you broke down the plot. I just saw this yesterday and was completely dumb-founded. Scrolling through a couple of comments here, I do have to say that there is an elegant beauty in the atmosphere but I was just totally at a loss for words when it came to me explaining what this film is ABOUT.

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