In the latest film from Michael and Shawn Rasmussen, The Inhabitants, a happily married couple Dan (Michael Reed) and Jessica (Elise Couture) make good on their aspirations of owning a nice, quaint bed and breakfast in a dozy New England community. They find themselves such a place up for sale, purchase it from the now widowed, mentally checked-out previous owner and begin their illustrious careers as B&B owners with a reality show starring Gordon Ramsey. Actually, the part about a reality show with Gordon Ramsey is not true; but, what is true is their new home has got some serious issues with possible ghosts, hidden cameras, and perverted past owners.
The Inhabitants begins with a couple staying at the B&B on vacation. the woman hears something moving around up above them in the house. The film transitions to night vision surveillance camera footage watching the couple as they sleep and something creeping up under the sheets to do something to the sleeping woman….
After this pseudo-opening, our main characters Dan and Jessica arrive to inspect the B&B before they make the purchase. It is revealed through the real estate agent, the old lady has to sell the B&B because her husband passed away and she couldn’t maintain the facilities any longer. After a brief inspection, Dan and Jess decide to take the plunge and make the purchase. The couple begins to move in and start getting the place ready for business. It is at this point some strange things begin to occur. The first event has the previous owner showing up in the middle of the night, reclining in the master bedroom rocking chair as she begins a late night vigil watching them sleep. As you would expect, this scares the shit out of Dan and Jess and they promptly call the assisted living center where the old lady has been placed. The whole situation is odd as the woman walked there from miles away, in her bare feet, through the woods, let herself in with a hidden key and somehow smuggled in a rocking chair to sit and watch the couple.
Some of the other occurrences that happen are Jess getting phone calls from within the house itself and odd washing machine malfunctions that without giving anything away…are strange. But the real stuff starts going down when Dan gets called away on a business trip for a week leaving Jess in the house alone. During this time Jess discovers some secret passages behind the walls and finds out the husband of the previous owner seemed to be a perverted peeping tom. What she doesn’t know is that there are other things in the house that are watching her as well, and when Dan returns it becomes clear Jess is not the same. Something has gotten a hold of her soul, and her bubbly, effervescent personality has been replaced with a cold, dry emotionless one.
As Dan slowly begins to pick up on some strange behavior from Jess and looks more into the history of the house, which Jess had been doing before he left, it turns out to have a murky history of its own. A supposed witch who was a midwife was hanged by New England settlers when some children went missing or died while in her care. At first Dan still isn’t connecting the witch to his wife’s strange behavior, but he does discover a secret voyeur station, complete with old tapes, set up in the attic of the house. How this wasn’t discovered earlier is beyond me because it isn’t exactly covered up, but…okay. Anyway, at first it just looks like the previous owner was a dirty old man with cameras set up to spy on girls undressing. This is where my first issue with the film’s logic comes from.
At this point in the movie, there is nothing else to indicate the video station is there for anything other than spying on naked girls. Dan keeps this ALL to himself. He doesn’t alert the cops or tell his wife. Admittedly his wife was acting a bit odd at this time but still he tells NO ONE. Later it is discovered that the station was not setup just as a means of spying on naked girls but to capture the hauntings going on in the house and document them. Again, this is another logic hole for me. Dan still does not tell ANYONE about anything he discovers. Here is why I have an issue with this, he does not come off as a guy who thinks, “I’m going to handle this stuff IN HOUSE“, nothing about his character says that. In addition, he’s shown talking to someone on his cell phone about his wife in a joking manner earlier in the movie, so he has contact with others outside of his marriage and is open to talking about things. So his decision to keep the situation that is going on to himself seems a bit out of place.
So now Dan realizes that something is wrong with his wife, and he begins to confront her more about her odd behavior. But he waits a looong time before saying anything, which I found odd. He also discovers the secret passages behind the walls that Jess did while he was away on his business trip, he even sees footprints leading out from this passage and again he never tells anyone about this or does much in terms of trying to look further into that. Eventually, Dan gets into serious trouble (that I won’t reveal here) and Jess basically goes full psycho on him and ties him into a birthing wheelchair as she begins to bleed him, Salem witch style. To Dan’s credit he gets out of this in a sneaky way, but begins to make some dumb mistakes in his escape route plan. Why he tried to escape the way he did is beyond me, but he did.
It’s obvious that there wasn’t a lot of money to make a movie here, the film is essentially a two person show, with the lion’s share of screen time taken up by Reed and Couture. They both do a good job, but truthfully speaking – the slow, laconic pace of the film really bogs their performances down. And once Couture changes, the pace of the film gets even slower. There’s nothing wrong with the slow pace if the characters are making the most of it, but Couture’s monotone voice and far away stare don’t do much more than get you anxious for something, anything to happen. And Reed’s nagging insistence on alerting nobody to the situation becomes frustrating to the viewer. The cinematography here is of the dark and cold variety, but it fits the setting well enough. All other tech credits are satisfactory.
The Rasmussen brothers first made a name for themselves by writing John Carpenter’s last film to date, The Ward (2010). As Carpenter hasn’t directed another film since, you can pretty much guess what the reaction was to it. The Rasmussen’s then wrote/directed their first feature, called Dark Feed (2013), and the most notable thing about that film was the DVD cover art, which looked eerily similar to the art used on The Ward. But to be fair, it had a creepy moment or two. And as I watched The Inhabitants, I could tell that the brothers have been attempting to hone their craft a bit. They’ve still got a lot of honing to go, but their evolution into becoming good film makers is evident here.
To sum it up, The Inhabitants is an engaging movie. The story starts off as something that you think you’ve seen before but if you look a bit below the surface you will see it’s not exactly the typical “Salem witch/ghost possession” story you think it is. The acting is solid and the setting fits the movie, although the script makes Jessica’s transformation so blatantly obvious that I had to wonder why Dan didn’t notice it immediately and hightail it out of there. Other issues I had with The Inhabitants were some of the strange decisions Dan made in the movie, and some characters it introduced that really only seemed to be there to add some more characters to knock off.
Despite this, The Inhabitants is a solid movie with a story that looks/feels very clichÃ©, but is turned around a bit with neat little twist inserted at the end.
The Inhabitants (3 / 5)
The Inhabitants is now available on VOD.