“Restoration” (2016): A Young Couple’s Dream House Leads to Supernatural Nightmares

During most of the first and second acts in director Zack Ward’s horror effort Restoration, the film seems to be yet another “ghostly little girl story” favoring drama instead of fright – yet all the while there is an underlying sense that there is more to this story than simply that. Indeed, this proves to be true, and that aspect, as well as the dramatic elements at play, are what lift this movie above other similar lower-budget efforts.

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Rebecca Jordan (Emily O’Brien) and her husband Todd (Adrian Gaeta) make a mysterious discovery behind a wall in their new home in Restoration.

Restoration involves a young couple that has just started renovating their newly acquired home. Rebecca Jordan (Emily O’Brien) is a doctor who has just transferred to a new hospital, and her husband Todd (Adrian Gaeta) works hard at restoring their house. The previous owner is said to have had a penchant for collecting teddy bears, and one day the couple finds one hidden behind a wall. It turns out that this particular teddy bear has a little girl’s diary hidden inside of it and once Rebecca starts reading the journal, strange things begin to happen.

The Jordans have a pair of neighbors who drop by a little too often for Rebecca, but Todd welcomes the company of Harold (Zack Ward) and Francine (Sarah Ann Schultz), who are quick to whip up meals and sit for conversation. A few things begin to put a strain on the Jordans’ relationship, but when Todd is the victim of a frightening occurrence at their home that lands him at Rebecca’s hospital, she is quick to show her love and dedication toward him by letting him know that she believes his story of a supernatural encounter. More eerie events take place as the Jordans search for answers to what is happening in their house. That leads to a third act that sits somewhere between creepily confusing and bat-guano-crazy.

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Director and co-writer Zack Ward (left) also co-stars as one the Jordans’ neighbors.

The extent to which viewers will enjoy this films depends greatly on how interested they are in becoming invested in the Jordans as a couple because that is what much of the first two acts is all about. Director Zack Ward co-wrote with James Cullen Bresack – writer of Pernicious, which also starred Emily O’Brien – and the duo does a nice job of letting viewers get to know Todd and Rebecca as a loving, devoted couple and as strong but flawed individuals. Less patient viewers may feel that things progress too slowly, though; however, I feel that there is enough of a sense of dread throughout to balance everything well.

Emily O’Brien and Adrean Gaeta give heartfelt, believable performances that helps the realistic dialogue ring true. There is one scene where Todd flies off the handle rather quickly and Rebecca puzzlingly doesn’t try to defend herself, but this is perhaps the only misstep in the writing when it comes to this couple’s relationship. Zack Ward and Sarah Ann Schultz breathe life into their roles as the neighbors who seem eager to befriend the Jordans, and they do a nice job of walking a fine line about making the Jordans – and viewers – wonder whether they are just overly friendly or whether they have ulterior motives.

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Todd witnesses a terrifying sight in the couple’s basement.

The third act moves at a much more rapid pace than the first two acts, complete with some exposition that left me scratching my head rather than feeling like it wrapped things up neatly; my guess is that it was meant to do the latter. If any of the acting ever treads on dangerous territory for being a bit over the top, it is here, but I won’t go into specifics as to why because that would be giving away spoilers.

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The story behind Todd’s burn is far worse than the injury itself.

Restoration is prolific character actor Zack Ward’s feature film debut. He shows he can handle the task of helming a fright film well and his experience in front of the camera surely helped him wring fine performances from his cast here. The screenplay is tightly written; it may contain more relationship drama than some viewers might like but I felt that this worked to help me feel more invested in the Jordans’ plight. The cinematography, score, and sound design are all crackerjack efforts, though a few CGI sequences show the film’s limited budget. All in all, Restoration isn’t the most original horror film in recent memory but it does try to offer some new twists on a supernatural ghost chiller.

Restoration: 3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)

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Joseph Perry
Joseph Perry fell in love with horror films as a preschooler when he first saw the Gill-Man swim across the TV screen in "The Creature from The Black Lagoon" and Mothra battle Godzilla in "Godzilla Vs. The Thing.” His education in fright fare continued with TV series such as "The Twilight Zone" and "Outer Limits," along with legendary northern California horror host Bob Wilkins’ "Creature Features." His love for silver age and golden age comic books, including horror titles from Gold Key, Dell, and Marvel started around age 5.

He is a contributing writer for the "Phantom of the Movies VideoScope" and “Drive-In Asylum” print magazines and the websites Horror Fuel, Diabolique Magazine, The Scariest Things, B&S About Movies, and When It Was Cool. He is a co-host of the "Uphill Both Ways" pop culture nostalgia podcast and also writes for its website. Joseph occasionally proudly co-writes articles with his son Cohen Perry, who is a film critic in his own right.

A former northern Californian and Oregonian, Joseph has been teaching, writing, and living in South Korea since 2008.