Please allow me to introduce you to Florence Carhart. Flo is a bad-ass kind of lady considering she’s a paranormal investigator/ghost debunk-er, best selling author and atheist in post World War One England. With me so far? Naturally, haters are gonna hate, as we all know. And Florence has plenty of haters and fans alike. We get the impression that Florence isn’t prone to many flights of fancy in her day to day life. She’s an orphan and also likes to gaze longingly at a photograph of a dashing man in uniform. We can only presume he’s dead as well since she’s so sad all the time. After another day at the office, a gentleman named Robert shows up at her door. He’s from a boarding school for boys and comes seeking her services for ridding them of a child’s ghost he assures her is quite real. Florence skeptically takes the case and meets the rest of our crew. There is the housekeeper lady named Maude who is played by Dolores Umbridge/Imelda Stanton. Maude is a no-nonsense spinster who happens to be a huge fan of our dear Florence. We also get Tom Hill played by that really cool kid who’s Bran in Game of Thrones! He’s a rather emo child who must spend his little school vacay on campus with Florence, Maude, Robert, and some pervy groundskeeper guy. We learn a little more background info on our leading couple. Flo’s parent’s were killed via animal attack while living abroad when she was a child. She did in fact have a beau who didn’t make it out of WW1. Poor ole Robert is a veteran himself and developed a self mutilation habit we don’t really explore that deeply. Naturally, Robert and Florence have some sexual tension going on. And as you may have also assumed, there really is a ghost at the school, though Florence is reluctant to believe it until she can deny it no further!
If ever there was a horror movie to describe as atmospheric, this is it. Everything is bleak, gray, and drab. The hollowed campus halls are just begging for ghosts to haunt them! We even get some of that ethereal children’s choral music going on for the soundtrack! The costuming geek that I am loved their period clothes. Especially Florence’s “daring” lounge wear of a men’s suit Ala Coco Chanel. And no doubt about it, the cast including Imelda, Bran Stark, Dominic West and Rebecca Hall are hugely talented people. I was super excited for some creeptastic ghost story from the merry old United Kingdom…
…And yet, I really didn’t love this movie. In fact, it made me grumpy after I watched it. I felt tricked and swindled! Go watch this movie on Netflix, then come back and talk spoilers with me. Maybe I am being a bit dramatic? It’s cool, I’ll wait here for you to return. As I always do.
Now that you’ve watched the movie, do you feel cheated as well? I feel as if we were dragged into some carnival! We were delighted by the spectacle and charm of these British people only to be shown their true nature as inbred circus folk! We come to find that the “ghost” of this school is really trying desperately to convey a convoluted message to Flo. And yes, I will continue to abbreviate her name (she likes it when I do this). Anyway, the school wasn’t always a school. It used to be the house that Flo and her family lived in. Mom, Asshole Father, and there was little Tom and little Flo as kids…Whaaaaaaaat?!? Yes, Tom is her half brother. He’s dead now. Killed by dad and trapped as a ghost child. Papa was trying to kill Flo. But Tom took the bullet instead after mama went down too. Maude was their nanny back then. She just kinda stayed with the house this whole time. She couldn’t abandon ghost Tom and never lost track of Flo when she went out into the world. Flo blocked all this out and made up the story about her parents being killed in the wilds of India or Africa or something. She also totally forgot she had a brother. So, that’s twist number one. However, we did get another. Maude thinks she and Flo need to die now and go be dead with lonely little Tom. So, yeah, Maude is a really sane and balanced individual. Tom starts to feel bad about it and doesn’t want his sister to die. Maude dies though. She’s totally bought in. Flo makes it out. She and Robert have some public displays of affection while all the boys are returning to their campus now ghost free. Oh, and the pervy groundskeeper who is also a draft-dodger dies or is maimed after trying to rape Flo. We can thank Robert for that. And yes, that piece of plot is as random as it sounds.
Now, I want to take my hat off to the filmmakers and writers of this movie. And yet, I am reluctant to do so! I feel like they totally tricked me into their plot twists. There were no hints dropped along the way. And to me, that’s the fun of twisty, turny movies. When you miss hints at first, then get the big reveal and realize that it all seems so obvious in hindsight. But there were no hints here. Only red-herrings!
My list of grievances:
1. We are told Flo’s parent’s are dead. Killed abroad. By animals. There is nothing to think about overmuch here. When we learn this, it’s like, who cares?? Her orphan status is what makes her bitter. That’s all we need to know. Allegedly.
2. There was no mention of having had a brother. Or a housekeeper she loved. Or a house she recalls living in. That is just a random series of facts we learn post plot twist.
3. Pervy groundskeeper guy. No one cares. He served no purpose.
4. Robert’s self mutilation. That seems like a big deal but it just sits there going unresolved and unexplained.
5. Flo’s dead boyfriend. Well, to be fair, this is a huge reason she’s a skeptic and they go into that a bit. And yet, honestly I just couldn’t bring myself to care and connect with her over this or the orphaned thing.
6. The damn movie isn’t scary. At all.
7. To say a main character doesn’t recall her history and blocked it out due to trauma that she doesn’t remember happening is really lazy to me. This is just an excuse for the writer to fill in some crazy twists you couldn’t hope to see coming. Harsh, but true.
*Sigh*. Well, I think you know where I am going with this. I wouldn’t have minded being tricked by the filmmakers if they’d dropped hints and actually managed to make it a mystery to solve. I would have welcomed it! Instead it was just so random. They could have just made the whole thing be about aliens. Or time travelers. Or vampires. Hell, it doesn’t matter apparently. One thing that makes sense once you know the “true” story? The title. Lame. Maybe next time I will just expect the unexpected instead of trying to be a clever little monkey and solve the mystery. Unlikely.