“The House on Pine Street” finds an expectant young couple moving into a home that seems to be haunted — at least it does to the wife, whose perception of something ominously amiss raises the thought that this is a suburban Kansas “Rosemary’s Baby.” That another scenario might be unfolding only becomes apparent well after an hour, making the pic arguably too slow-moving and short on the usual horror-genre spectacle to please fans looking for conventional wall-to-wall frights, let alone gore. But this effectively creepy second feature from brothers Aaron and Austin Keeling should please the patient in fest play and eventual home-format exposure, with regional theatrical release a possibility.
Jennifer (Emily Goss) and Luke (Taylor Bottles) have moved to her Kansas hometown from Chicago, she much more reluctantly than he. She seems to have left no friends or good memories behind here, and is not at all happy to regain such proximity to her pushy, judgmental mother, Meredith (Cathy Barnett). But this is, theoretically, just a temporary move. They’ve gotten a deal on a house far more spacious than the apartment they’ve left behind, Luke already has a local job that’s a significant uptick from his old one, and this just seems a more stable environment for her last weeks of pregnancy — particularly since there seems to have been some ill-defined earlier incident in which that condition was imperiled.
But soon after moving in, Jenny begins experiencing odd phenomena around the house — objects that move when she turns her back, knocks on doors when no one’s there. When Meredith forces a housewarming party on the young couple, her friend Walter (Jim Korinke), who’s “a bit of a psychic,” notes a “very interesting energy” to the house itself. By the time her friend Lauren (Nathalie Pellegrini) arrives for a visit with her own young child, Jenny is convinced the place is haunted. Others are unconvinced, but then perhaps they’re in on “it,” whatever “it” is: When she walks around the neighborhood, people give her looks suggesting some terrible secret as yet unrevealed only to her.
Shot in an 1840 house that purportedly came with its own ghostly lore, “Pine Street” is nicely atmospheric without succumbing to the usual cliches of spooky production design or false gotcha scares. The performers ably walk a line in which their potential malevolence or insanity can be considered without it being too clumsily portended. Suffice to say there are a couple satisfying twists to wait for, though their arrival might not fully placate those horror fans expecting a bloodier and/or more fantastical turn of events.
Modest but well-turned package is pro in all design and tech departments.
Film Review: 'The House on Pine Street'
Reviewed online, San Francisco, March 11, 2015. (In Cinequest Film Festival.) Running time: 112 MIN.
An E3W production. Produced by Natalie Jones, Aaron Keeling, Austin Keeling.
Directed by Aaron Keeling, Austin Keeling. Screenplay, Natalie Jones, Aaron Keeling, Austin Keeling. Camera (color), Juan Sebastian Baron; editor, Austin Keeling; music, Nathan Matthew David, Jeremy Lamb; production designer/costume designer, Monique Thomas; sound/sound designer/re-recording mixer, C.J. Drumeller; stunt coordinator, Mark Bedell; assistant director, Natalie Jones.
Emily Goss, Taylor Bottles, Cathy Barnett, Jim Korinke, Nathalie Pellegrini, Tisha Swart-Entwistle, Keagon Ellison, Daniel Shirley, Robert Jones, Jeannie Blau.