THE best ghost stories often have a gimmick or sting in the tail that sends a chill down the spine, and this haunted house story set in the aftermath of the First World War provides all the requisite bumps in the night – but it doesn’t quite get under our skin.
First-time feature director Nick Murphy, who co-wrote the script with Stephen Volk, generates a modicum of tension within the confines of his sprawling location.
But the script’s pacing is pedestrian and the revelations of the final 10 minutes strain credibility, reaching breaking point with a finale that is physically impossible given the information at our disposal.
Performances are solid, galvanised by a suitably nervous supporting turn from the imperious Imelda Staunton, but there is little here we haven’t seen or jumped at before.
Renowned author Florence Cathcart (Rebecca Hall) leads the crusade against bogus psychics and mediums who are swindling innocent people using trip wires and simple illusions.
She’s approached by history teacher Robert Mallory (Dominic West) who fears his school is haunted.
Once there she meets the school’s matron Maud Hill (Staunton) and the handyman (Joseph Mawle) who clearly bears a grudge against Robert.
With term over, there’s just one pupil, Tom (Isaac Hempstead Wright), whose parents are away in India.
Florence sets up her usual experiment to determine if there’s any genuine psychic activity and experiences disturbing visions.
The mood is unsettling rather than creepy or deeply disturbing.
Hall is compelling as the cynic, haunted by her own ghosts of the past, but the role lacks depth and the romance with West’s physically wounded professor simmers but never boils over.