Take all the components out of the successful ‘Blumhouse formula handbook’ and then add in a hard-hitting emotional ending and you’ve got ‘Still Born’ the debut feature from director Brandon Christensen.
‘Still Born’ follows the harrowing story of young mother ‘Mary’ (Christie Burke) who after expecting twins, is plunged into a world of depression as only one of her two children survive the birth. As you would expect, she struggles to cope, especially as her husband (as decent as a guy as he is) spends a lot of time away on business, and matters are made worse by her believing that her surviving child has been marked for the taking by a supernatural entity. The stakes rise as it becomes very clear baby Adam is in danger, but from who or what, does he need protecting?
Flaunting the line between supernatural and psychological horror the story progresses in a rather predicable but satisfying manner, jump scaring us along the way with terrifying noises, eerie images caught on baby monitors and some scuttling entities which have no right to be scuttling. Its all very entertaining, if a little ‘tried and tested’.
I think it’s fair say at this stage, this film is Christensen’s way of showing his talent to be up there with the best, through emulation as opposed to pushing the genre forwards.
I’ve seen the film described as ‘Blumhouse lite’ and that statement couldn’t be any truer. Everything about this film is a success, and well up to the standards of the films released through the popular production company, but nothing feels fresh – and this halts its effectiveness as either a stand-out film or a truly terrifying experience.
Many of the set pieces are obvious clones of films that have come before, so much so that at one point my friend and I were trying to figure out which films they were ‘inspired’ by. The face-turn-in-the-photo jolt, the walking-past-the-camera-jolt in the nursery and so on. As well done as they were, its difficult to be surprised by something you’ve seen before.
To an extent it’s a shame, because the film does so much right within its own context. The sound design is amazing, the ‘demons’ voice is down right fucking harrowing, and there are moments involving the baby in peril which really ups the ante in terms adding a very real emotional impact to the movies already suspenseful parts. The acting is good, and whilst its only towards the end that Burke perhaps over does the crazy in terms of her characters mental deterioration, it doesn’t detract from the fact that you keep routing for the family throughout. Sets, lighting, cinematography, all fantastic, but again, very familiar.
I’ve already eluded to the fact that the ending of the film hits hard, and in many ways, it saves the whole film because, finally, after copied set piece after copied set piece, the film’s own merits in its writing and characterisation come good.
Overall, ‘Still-Born’ is well worth a watch. It is scary in parts – or at least it will make you jump, and if your fairly new to watching horror films then this will certainly impress you! If you love the Blumhouse films and want more then, again, it’s a great choice. It is, however, difficult to rate the film any higher than what I have, as its most effective moments are more the merit of those who orchestrated them the first time I saw them.