An effective suspense movie that’s also a twisty thriller – you might see where it’s going, but it gets there by a surprising route.
Kate (Lora Burke) tries to give her just-turned-nine daughter Beth (Tessa Kozma) a birthday party – though the kid’s going through a brat phase (when presented a precious family locket, she says she wanted an i-Pad) and they’re cooped up alone together in an isolated farmhouse. Kate is jittery about possible lurking menace, and it turns out they’re in witness protection after Kate has given testimony against her husband, who has been convicted of murdering a little girl. Beth goes out of her way to make the situation worse, playing practical jokes that reduce her Mom to a sobbing wreck, and the horny cop on the case (Colin Paradine) only ever turns up with bad news. Then, the parents of the dead little girl – Mary (Kristen McCulloch) and Lewis (Nick Smyth) – turn up to terrorise Kate and Beth. Lewis has been going over the evidence and is now convinced it was Kate who committed the murder and framed her husband and Mary wants to get a confession recorded and doesn’t mind resorting to torture to get it. Desperately, Kate tries to protect her daughter – whose hide and seek skills soon come in handy – and hold out against the increasingly demented, and not entirely un-guilty, parka-clad vigilantes.
Directed by Craig David Wallace (Todd and the Book of Pure Evil), who also co-scripted with Ian Malone, this is a riff on that mini-blip (The Tortured, Prisoners, Big Bad Wolves) of possible-child-killer-tied-in-the-basement-with-cutting-implements-in-grieving-parents-hands movies of a few years back (here, it’s a barn). It’s less concerned with the issues of taking the law into private hands than it is in turning the screws on the protagonist, a mother in a very bad situation who is at the mercy of another mother and going to extremes to protect her child. Burke (Lifechanger) gets an emotional workout at the centre of the film — by turns paranoid, smothering, hysterical, resourceful, manipulative, violent and in extreme physical pain – and everyone else has to play off her, but young Kozma is exceptionally good too, especially in the home stretch.