Movie Review: ‘The Domicile’

The Domicile is a haunted house/revenge flick that offers no likable characters and the audience very little to cheer for. We follow Russel Brody (Steve Richard Harris) as he writes a follow up to his first successful play while preparing for the birth of his first children, twins. His wife Estella (Katherine Flannery) takes a tumble down a flight of stairs and dies. A year later Russel is neck-deep in alcoholism and despair as he struggles to complete the play. He gets some very questionable advice from his writing partner David (Demetrius Stear) to hook-up with Lucy (Sara Lane), a woman he had a fling with while his wife was still alive. Somehow Estella’s spirit overhears this. Even more concerning, Russel somehow thinks this will help him get over his wife’s passing, complete the play, or both. Estella eventually takes control of Lucy’s mortal form to get revenge on her husband. Sara also has what I read to be a legally insane sister who knew this was going to happen and is confined to a bedroom in Brody’s house rather than being committed to an institution of some sort.

The premise as such relies on character building, all of which happens after the fact and in small amounts. But the biggest issue here is that there’s simply no one to like. The audience might feel bad for Katherine if she didn’t die in the first ten minutes. We can’t feel bad for Brody even when he’s crying over a photo of his wife a year later because when she was alive we only ever saw him lose his temper with her. David seems to care only about completing the play (and again, he suggested the man in mourning get together with the woman he cheated on his wife with). Lucy is a ghost puppet for most of her screen time, so she’s out of the running, too. So you’re stuck watching, waiting for ghost wife to get her revenge because it’s the only satisfactory way the story can end. There’s no way for Brody to atone for having cheated on her since, you know, she’s dead, but that doesn’t make it any more enjoyable. It’s only an hour and twenty-ish minutes and moves very quickly, at times even feeling disjointed, but the lack of any reason to care makes it feel like a chore.

Dialog is a big problem. David actually jokes about Estella being a ghost when Brody first starts seeing things. It’s not that I doubt someone could be that insensitive, but it’s how Brody—a man still in mourning—reacts that makes it so strange. Likewise, Brody takes to replacing his wife with his mistress awfully fast. It could be that there’s an undercurrent of selfishness the movie wants to play off of, which makes sense, but in execution it sadly misses. The ghost of Estella is almost as much of a non-entity as she is, appearing in glimpses and lingering shots before possessing Lucy. Lucy’s sudden change in attitude comes with some ill-defined powers that don’t warrant much attention themselves.

At the end of the day there really isn’t much to write home about. It feels very claustrophobic, having the events confined to Brody’s house and the surrounding lawn, but nothing is ever really done with the space, nor do we get much of a feel for where said house actually is; in some shots it seems isolated while in others it’s in the suburbs. Some components feel totally unnecessary, like crazy sister, who seems to exist just to hint at spooky stuff happening before it does. Likewise David exists just to give bad advice and add more pressure to Brody, something Brody could have just as easily gotten from one of the many beer bottles he has littered his home with.

Ultimately The Domicile doesn’t fit in with the genres it’s part of, nor does it set out in any new direction.

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