Blumhouse horror is always reason enough for excitement; throw in an eerie Louisiana-setting and that is enough to warrant a must-watch in my book. Written and directed by Alex McAulay (2020’s excellent thriller, Don’t Tell a Soul), a pared-down story makes for an intimately-choreographed little horror flick. Just weird and mysterious enough to warrant a recommendation, A House on the Bayou is creepy backwoods horror that feels soaked in atmospheric grime.
Jessica (Angela Sarafyan) and John (Paul Schneider) are not what one would call a happy couple. The film begins with a confrontation between the two—Jessica has discovered his infidelity, but she refuses to let it destroy their marriage. To mend their disastrous union, Jessica proposes a family vacation from Houston to Louisiana, accompanied by their daughter Anna (Lia McHugh). It turns out to be a huge mansion deep in the bayou (obvious titles are the best sometimes) with a massive pool. As a real estate agent, Jessica has an in so they can stay there before the place goes on the market in only a month’s time. A strange room missing from the blueprint refuses to open, locked tightly, and hangs a dark cloud over their first day.
Jessica tasks John to trek out to a local grocery store to pick up some veal cutlets. It is here that Anna meets an outspoken stranger named Isaac (Jacob Lofland)—I instantly got a weird vibe from Isaac. He is clearly much older than Anna, but is openly flirting with her and says she looks like his ex-girlfriend. The receipt John gets from the store comes with an odd message: “you are being watched by the devil.” John buys beef instead of veal, which angers Jessica before Isaac and his “grandpappy” (Doug Van Liew) show up at their doorstep for dinner. Claiming their “oven broke,” Isaac offers up his grandpappy to cook for them, comes armed with a bottle of wine, and even offers to do the dishes!
Naturally, inviting strangers into your home is rarely a recipe for success. The family members are each tested to their limits, as Isaac grows progressively creepier. When Jessica suggests they leave, Isaac acts as if he and grandpappy have just been invited to spend the night. Isaac is weirdly seductive, sinister, and intrusive all at once. I found the mysteries behind Isaac and grandpappy to be the film’s crowning glory. I was waiting for an obligatory over-explanation that would take me out of the movie completely, but it never comes. The film wisely allows the viewer to connect the dots themselves. Many surprising twists and turns come throughout the brisk runtime, and little straightforward answers are provided.
A zooming synth score and excellent acting performances pair well with the singular setting and necessary bursts of violence. I was ambivalent about how it would end, but here we take a page out of 2001 Maniacs. Angela Sarafyan’s Jessica goes to any lengths in order to save her daughter Anna, and her marriage with John (a sham regardless) is put to the ultimate test. Teaching the viewer a life lesson with the backwoods-bayou flavor adding that extra zing of pizazz, A House on the Bayou is one of the better films I have seen from Blumhouse in recent years.
A House on the Bayou goes on the market when it premieres via Epix on Friday, November 19th, and will be available day-and-date via VOD.