I'm not really sure how to talk about I Am the Pretty Thing that Lives in the House, a lovely little ghost story just released on Netflix the day before yesterday. There's not much plot but there is a whole lot of detail and atmosphere and I suspect that if I'd rewatched it immediately after finishing it the first time, I would have picked up on a lot more.
Lily is a hospice nurse who has come to the old house at the end of Teacup Road to care for Iris Blum, the failing author of lurid books, the kinds sold in airports. It isn't clear from the costuming when this story is set but there are rotary phones, VCRs and big boxy cars, so perhaps the 1980s. The house itself is beautiful: old and plain, New England style, with wide floorboards and no adornments. Lily tells us directly, in voiceover, at the start of the movie, that she will die before this year's service to her patient is up. It doesn't take long for the subtle hauntings to start: mold, reflections, a carpet that won't lie flat. Iris calls Lily "Polly," the main character in her best-selling novel, The Lady in the Walls, and that book is written as though Polly told the author the story of her death. The ghostly apparitions we glimpse are of a pretty young woman in period apparel, walking quietly through the house; we see a flashback of that young woman being attacked by a grim-looking man. We also see flashbacks of Iris as a young woman, writing Polly's story. By the end, it isn't clear who is a ghost at what time. But a line from the beginning of the movie - "A house with a death in it can never again be bought or sold by the living. It can only be borrowed from the ghosts who have stayed behind." - holds true.
I Am the Pretty Thing that Lives in the House will not appeal to people looking for a haunted house movie with action or a lot of twisty plot or even jump scares, screaming and rattling chains. It will, however, appeal to people who prefer atmosphere and creeping dread and pretty shots and ambiguity with their ghosts.
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