THE BAYLOCK RESIDENCE * UK 2019 Dir: Anthony M. Winson. 83 mins

In a reworking of his own THE HAUNTING OF BAYLOCK RESIDENCE (2014), writer-director Anthony M Winson shifts the setting to 1944 wartime England – there’s a brief air raid sequence – for another attempt at a traditional period ghost story. Kelly Goudie inherits the eponymous country house from her illness-ravaged, recently deceased sister and retaining the dead woman’s carer for chores and some company. It isn’t long before pipes start creaking, old records play on their own and random knocks at the door break the nocturnal silence.

Saddled with an over-emphatic soundtrack, the movie has the odd effectively creepy moment of lightning flashes revealing figures in darkened rooms, but most of the time creaks through the kind of hackneyed “scares” and wind machine action that would have felt dated in 1963. Characters appear from nowhere for the sake of a false jolt (“Sorry I keep scaring you!”) and Goudie’s only companion, live-in help Sarah Wynne Kordas, is saddled with the usual “rational” sceptic role of sporadically insisting that a good night’s sleep will fix everything.

Gaslit explorations of the house at night alternate with a mild riff on THE ENTITY’s invisible assailant routine and heavy-handed exposition from comical old locals. There’s no atmosphere, and the script talks down to the audience: do we need an onscreen definition of a poltergeist? The unconvincing central performance kills any drama or tension, while the duff twist throws up an underwhelming occultist villain who sums up the audience’s thoughts with “The eclipse is fading, as is my patience.” A highlight is an encounter with a suitably frosty representative of the W.I.: “If you’re not here for jam making or flower arranging, how can I help you?”

Review by Steven West


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