It took me a few days to fully process the film. It’s dark tone speaks volumes about mental illness and how being complacent about it can have disturbing consequences.
It starts with a mother of two kids (an underused Alicia Silverstone) whose estranged husband ignores the signs of her depression and tells her he wants a divorce so he can propose to his girlfriend. In the next brutally honest scene, she commits suicide. The kids (Jaeden Martell and Lia McHugh) are left with their father (Richard Armitage) who doesn’t know how to help them through their grief.
When he suggests they go to the families cabin for Christmas so they can get to know his girlfriend, Grace, the children are not enthusiastic. The kids research Grace and what they find over the Internet is troubling. She is the sole survivor of a cult that committed suicide. This disturbs the kids but not the father. There are hints that he wrote a book about her cult, but they aren’t elaborated on.
At the cabin, the father leaves the children alone with Grace for a few days so he can return to work. Bad weather settles in. The power goes out. Their personal belongings disappear.
All things point to something disturbing happening in the cabin. At first, it seems it may be a prank by the kids, but after Grace tries and fails to walk into town and her dog freezes to death, it feels like something bigger is happening.
The conclusion of the film could have gone either way. Is it a prank or is it a supernatural presence? It lands on the former, and the children quickly realize that their vengeful prank has broken Grace’s fragile mental state.
Like I said, this film speaks heavily on the complacency that some people have toward mental illness. The mother obviously needed help, but the husband didn’t seem to notice. His children’s grief had turned sour, and still he turned a blind eye. Even when he hadn’t heard from them in days, he seemed only vaguely worried. And the kids, too innocent to realize what they were really doing, found out too late what they had done.
It’s worth seeing, but be forewarned that this film is bleak and honest in its portrayal. It’s beautifully done, and even the cabin is a claustrophobic, dark presence of its own. I give it three out of four stars for well done atmosphere and brilliant, vulnerable acting by the cast.