Here’s a horror movie that opens with a picture of contemporary American desperation that could come from Nomadland or The Florida Project, runaway Amy (Sarah McGuire) – who has a knife-wound in her side – and her adopted son Adrian (Patrick McGee) sheltering for a few moments in a supermarket where they can’t afford to buy anything and then leaving the place with nowhere to go … except Amy has inherited the family home she once fled after a childhood of abuse, and reluctantly goes back there to evade Judith (Laurie Catherine Winkel), her violent but plausible ex-partner. Jenny (Paige Maria), a childhood friend who knows some of the backstory, helps out, but mother and child still have to cope in a home which is figuratively and literally haunted. But who exactly is the spectre reaching out in anger for Amy? And when will Judith – who is tracking the pair – show up?
Writer-director-editor Patrick Rea made I Am Lisa, a werewolf movie with a similarly gritty, rough-hewn realist feel – and unusually complicated, female-skewing antagonisms. Here, the kid is the only significant male presence in a thorny story which involves quite a bit of canny misdirection. We’re looking at several sets of backstory, all of which involve some form of abuse – and Amy isn’t quite sure which of her past demons is manifesting to torment her anew. Rea plays interestingly with our sympathies – on one level, all these people are awful and have done unforgivable things, but they’re also trapped and trying to get by, even trying to do the right thing. The movie may press a few too-familiar buttons – especially with the flashbacks to young Amy (Brinklee Wynn) being traumatised by her mother (Meagan Flynn) – but springs several surprises, and the home stretch is scary and affecting.