By: David De La Riva
“The devil made me do it”, a classic ghost story and one that is a tale as old as time, and while yes, we have seen this story told about a billion times before, LAIR looks to leave its mark in cinema and make this story its own…
LAIR, a paranormal mystery film from 1091 Pictures, is the first full-length feature from writer/director Adam Ethan Crow. It features a brand-new ghost story that will feel incredibly familiar to fans of the genre, but even in its similarities, manages to packs one hell of a finale.
When Ben Dollarhyde (Oded Fehr) is convicted of brutally murdering his wife and son, his friend and former partner Doctor Steven Caramore (Corey Johnson) goes to visit his now-convicted friend to see what in the world is going on… However, the results are not to his liking. Dollarhyde accuses Caramore of putting some sort of cursed object in his home, an item that possessed Dollarhyde and forced him to massacre his family… so it should go without saying that both Dollarhyde and his attorney are not the doctor's biggest fans right now.
Clearly distraught, Caramore now decides, foolishly, to test this same theory once again, and attempt to prove the existence of the paranormal and supernatural in order to clear his own name, save his convicted friends, and make some money on the side. His plan is to rent out a hotel that he owns to an unsuspecting family, decorating the place with a few “possessed” items before he lets them in. This is in an attempt to see if any of these items are actually holding any sort of evil spirits.
Our poor unsuspecting family consists of Maria Engel (Aislinn De’Ath), her partner Carly (Alana Wallace), and her two children - and while the family may seem wholesome and innocent to begin with, we learn that not everything is as nice as it would seem.Eventually, this fractured family will have to deal with more than just their own inner demons, when the legitimate kind come to play.
LAIR is an incredibly perplexing film to try and narrow down. A seemingly generic installment in the paranormal subgenre, nothing about the movie is so grossly offensive that it would ruin the film, but there is also nothing particularly great, or in this case even just good, that makes watching it worth your time. Or so it seems, because while the first two thirds are mediocre at best, something fairly remarkable happens in the third act, and the film becomes pretty damn good!
All the unexceptional melodrama and stomach-churning dialog that plagued the first two acts of the film are all but gone, and suddenly our lifeless protagonist springs to life and the themes of paranoia, anxiety, depression and fear all come to fruition as the film decides, seemingly out of nowhere, that it came to play. And play it does, with some of the most intriguing and disturbing scenes. It becomes exponentially clear that no one is safe, and there is no one you can truly trust.
This all comes due to the absolute standout performances from De'Ath, Wallace, and Anya Newall, who give genuinely breathtaking performances in the third act. You feel the absolute terror and unease that grips each and every single one of them. It cannot be understated that this feels like an amalgamation of different films all thrown together, and while the last act is fairly well-executed, scary, tense, well-acted, directed, and written, it just makes the flaws in the first two acts that much more glaring. When you show the potential to do what was done in the final act of this film, but you give us a mediocre setup, it just makes it all the more disappointing.
LAIR showed that it had all the potential in the world, with a cast that was just waiting to explode with talent, dark and scary themes, and elements of psychological and paranormal horror that had flashes of true brilliance. However, a disjointed and often scatterbrained story, mixed with bizarre directing choices, and a below average script held this film back from its true potential. But we will always have that frightful, powerful, and just flat-out fun ending.