United Kingdom. Directed by Andrew Jones, 2015. Starring Lee Bane, Georgina Blackledge, Tessa Wood. 82 minutes.
Judging from his IMDB page, Andrew Jones, the writer/director of The Last House on Cemetery Lane, seems to be something of a one-man British version of the Asylum: his CV includes titles such as Valley of the Witch, The Amityville Asylum and the upcoming Poltergeist Activity. I’m not sure that’s actually true, but it’s as good a theory as any to explain Cemetery Lane’s myriad flaws, from its generic title to its overly-familiar premise.
Lee Bane stars as John Davies, a screenwriter who books eight weeks at a rambling country manor with the hopes of kicking his writer’s block and producing a better script than the one he’s in. The one catch is that, according to the landlady, the house’s top floor is occupied by an elderly blind woman who never leaves her rooms and never talks to anyone (and is not named the Dowager Countess McGuffin, much to my disappointment). Seeing as John specializes in writing horror films, you’d think he’d realize he’s just walked into a cross between Burnt Offerings and The Sentinel, right? Wrong. Instead he gets all surprised when the phonograph starts blaring old-timey music at two in the morning and intense nightmares plague his fitful sleep. Luckily he’s got Cas (Georgina Blackledge), the pretty neighbor, to help him get to the bottom of things.
There’s very little to say in support of this particular exercise. Hopefully I’ve already given you a good idea of how same-shit-different-day the story is. If Jones’s script showed any signs of self-awareness (and it’s pretty damn rare to find a horror story about writers that isn’t self-aware to some extent) I could write the lack of originality off as an unsuccessful attempt at meta, but no, it looks like we’re supposed to take this all at face value. About ten minutes into the film, Jones offers up a montage set to a turgid mid-tempo song that sounds like Jones instructed the composer to make it sound like Jonathan Coulson’s “Creepy Doll,” except without the merest hint of humor.
Jones throws every incongruous freaky thing he can think of into the film, including impromptu dentistry and the word MURDER written on a mirror in blood; I could forgive him for not explaining all these things, but he doesn’t even bother making them all feel like they belong in the same movie. The characterization is just as bad, with John and Cassie falling in love with each other in a matter of days despite neither of them having much in the way of personality and being saddled with the most stilted dialog imaginable. Once the mystery starts to unravel–something that happens surprisingly late in the game–it becomes shockingly obvious what’s actually going on, thanks to Ebert’s inevitable Law of Conservation of Characters. Jones then brings in some sudden plot elements that have never been alluded to and are never followed up on, and then everything grinds to a halt, leaving the viewer free to get on with his life.
Of the cast, Bane is the only one who impresses, largely because he’s the only one who has anything to do and is good at doing it. Blackledge tries gamely, but there’s simply not enough to Cas to make a performance out of, although she does have some rudimentary chemistry with Bane. The only two other important performances come from Tessa Wood and Vivien Bridson, neither of whom give the impression they’re interested in anything more than a paycheck and another entry on their resumés.
Long story short, The Last House on Cemetery Lane is almost entirely lacking in entertainment value. It’s a complete waste of time and is not worth watching even to laugh at. My advice: find something else to watch.