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A House On The Bayou Review: Middling Blumhouse Horror Misses The Mark

Blumhouse Productions has managed to carve a unique space within the horror genre, with most of its model being based on small-budget horror offerings helmed by directors with considerable creative freedom. A House on the Bayou is the first of eight horror films birthed from a collaboration between Blumhouse and EPIX, written and directed by Alex McAulay, creator of the moderately-gripping thriller Don’t Tell A Soul. Despite its potential, A House on the Bayou has nothing new or interesting to offer, with the final twist further undoing the film's scattered charm.

A House on the Bayou sets up the relationship between married couple Jessica (Angela Sarafyan) and John (Paul Schneider), with the former now aware of her husband’s affair with his student, Vivienne (Lauren Richards). Although visibly hurt by John’s actions (who does not seem genuinely repentant to begin with), Jessica decides to give their relationship another chance, especially for the sake of their daughter, Anna (Lia McHugh). Booking an idyllic getaway to an isolated mansion in the Louisiana Bay, the family in question attempt to settle in, with John and Anna making a trip to the only grocery store a few miles away. This is when they meet the devilish teen Isaac (Jacob Lofland) and his “grandpappy” (Doug Van Liew), a duo who seem suspiciously over-friendly, all the while harboring nefarious intentions and secrets.

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The discord between Jessica and John only heightens in the meanwhile, as the latter makes it impossible for his wife to trust him, or even give him the benefit of the doubt that he is ready to be a changed man. A House on the Bayou delves deep into the meshed fabric of adultery and the duplicity of human nature, and the extent one is willing to go in order to justify their own thoughtless cruelty. The presence of Isaac and Grandpappy only serves to heighten these instincts, as the duo finds a way to show up for dinner uninvited while playing a deranged game that brings out unsavory secrets and truths to the fore.

Apart from a locked room that seems to harbor something nefarious and glimpses of a wild animal circling the property, there is no true terror in A House on the Bayou, except for the humans who inhabit the world of the film. The dark caverns of the human soul can make for truly gruesome and arresting horror, as exemplified in Sion Sono’s Cold Fish, which also features characters that act no better than beasts when stripped of their middling pleasantries. However, none of the characters in A House on the Bayou are interesting or complex in any respect, and their twisted motivations start making less and less sense as the film gravitates towards its blasé finish.

None of the performances in A House on the Bayou are worth special mention, bound as they are by the film’s narrow purview of the strange and the supernatural. The last twenty minutes of the film only serve to heighten audience exasperation, with the penultimate twist raising more perplexing questions than resolving errant plotlines and granting a satisfying finish. While the premise of A House on the Bayou had the potential to transform into a chilling backwoods horror story, the end result is a middling, unconvincing thriller with no genuine thrills or scares.

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A House on the Bayou is set to be released on November 19, 2021, courtesy of Epix. The film is 88 minutes long and remains unrated as of now.

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