A House on the Bayou (2021) Opens Up with Half-Hearted Southern Gothic Horror
Title: A House on the Bayou
First Non-Festival Release: November 19, 2021(Digital/Streaming Platforms, etc)
Director: Alex McAulay
Writer: Alex McAulay
Runtime: 88 Minutes
Starring: Angela Sarafyan, Paul Schneider, Lia McHugh
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
Jessica (Angela Sarafyan) confronts her husband John (Paul Schneider) with proof that he is cheating. To begin making up for his betrayal, John agrees to take Jessica and their daughter Anna (Lia McHugh) on a vacation to a giant house near the swamps far from Houston. Once there, they meet Isaac (Jacob Lofland), a local teenager, at a store grocery shopping. Eventually, the teen invites the family to dinner with his grandfather. Eventually things start getting weird as the night progresses and bizarre truths and unexplainable phenomena disrupt the healing process of the Chambers family.
Muddled morality horror, A House on the Bayou utilizes misdirection and confusion with middling results.
A House in the Bayou hinges on some interesting reveals that sometimes don’t make sense nor really add much to the story. There’s a constant sense of retread. Character’s backstories, explanations of sequences of events, and the actual motivation for coming up to the house make no sense. Everything is all over the place and it takes the viewer out of the experience. This makes what should be a relatively straightforward story confusing when it shouldn’t be. Obviously, twists and turns in a story can be welcome, but they stop contributing to the overall effect of the story once they lose the viewer. A House on the Bayou loses its viewer more than it should.
Isaac and Grandpappy somehow get more mysterious throughout the evening. Their purpose and reality changes on which portion of the story they live in. This is the coolest aspect of A House in the Bayou. The inability to pin down exactly who or what they are makes the film stand out more than it would otherwise. The rest of the characters lack a certain depth, which drags the film down. John ends up becoming more cartoonish throughout the night while neither Jessica nor Anna get much chance at developing. It would be interesting to see more flaws come out of the entire family and have the morals be less black and white, especially pertaining to Vivienne.
The point of the film is to analyze the character’s moral failings and judge them accordingly. I don’t think that A House on the Bayou passes its own tests. Some characters do bad things, murder for example, and are given second chances. Others knowingly cheat with a married man and are suddenly damned to hell. It feels weird. I’m not saying that this is a good or bad thing. A film can allow its audiences to ponder these decisions but A House on the Bayou doubles down quite often on its logic. It would be interesting to see what a larger group of characters would do in this situation and what sort of rationales would poke through during the evening.
Bland and inoffensive but still palatable, it does nothing too impressive or discouraging, A House in the Bayou is the epitome of forgettable horror. The way it’s shot give the vibe that it is a made for tv movie without a budget, which checks out considering the deal Epix made with Blumhouse. This especially comes to life in the name of questionable effects and an irritatingly on-the-nose score. It still manages to be enjoyable more than not and this can be attributed to the twisty nature of the writing and to-the-point pacing.
At the end of the day, A House on the Bayou is a serviceable horror film that is content to coast without trying too hard to re-invent the wheel. The film’s morals are placed front-and-center as it is integral to the narrative and overarching themes. In the end, it doesn’t hold that much weight. Fine performances and enough weirdness in the plot to shake up the story make up for the overall average production. A House in the Bayou won’t win many awards, but it may win over those who are looking for more subtle or bloodless horror. Who knows, it may be worthy of a second chance one day.
Overall Score? 5.5/10