FEARNET Movie Review: 'At the Devil's Door' (aka Home)


A "sophomore" feature is always a big deal, and the reasons should be pretty obvious: the theory is that anyone can get lucky (and make a good film) once, but twice? That is indicative of some actual talent, and it also means a lot more pressure. The "sophomore slump" is not just a sports term. It simply means that a filmmaker must be careful on their second film. My advice? Remember what worked the first time around, drop what didn't, learn from the feedback you received, and don't let too many cooks into your kitchen.

This is an elaborate way of saying that, after hitting the festival circuit with The Pact a few years back, writer/director Nicholas McCarthy is back with his sophomore effort. It's called Home, it's sort of like three horror stories in one, and it's even better than The Pact (which I liked but thought it felt a little too much like a short stretched out to feature length, which it was).
The third paragraph is where I generally dive into a brief and spoiler-free plot synopsis, partially because it takes up some valuable space, but mainly because, hey, people want to know what a movie is actually about. However, in an effort to keep the film's twisting narrative and unexpected plot contortions a secret, let's just say that Home is sort of like several horror movies in one. It's a narrative that almost plays like an anthology, and the stories offered here touch on A) haunted houses, B) violent spirits who attack women, C) demonic possession, and D) potentially killer kids. That's all you're getting from me, plot-wise.
Those who enjoyed The Pact will certainly appreciate how Mr. McCarthy has retained the chilly atmosphere and frequently restrained refinement for his second feature, but Home is, quite simply, a hell of a lot more unpredictable than The Pact was. This is a sometimes bizarre but entirely accessible piece of intelligent horror storytelling, and it's proof that a genre-loving filmmaker can combine disparate scary tales and still keep a straight face at the same time.
As Home's focus leaps from one "central" character to another, it almost starts to feel like a low-budget horror flick that Robert Altman might have made. That's high (and weird) praise, to be sure, but Home presents a legitimately odd narrative structure; McCarthy and his colleagues deserve some high (and weird) praise for pulling it off so smoothly.
Apologies for the vague nature of this review, but Home is simply very impressive. It works as a slick and admirably unpredictable whole, and it somehow seems to work as three distinct chapters as well. Call it a haunted house / possessed women / evil pregnancy flick if you must, but Home is simply a very smart, sometimes strange, and oddly satisfying piece of horror cinema.