THE DOMICILE – A home (and film) in disarray
Writer as a chosen profession for main characters in horror films has been an accepted component in storytelling for decades. Perhaps it is due to the obsessive and hyper-focused mind of the writer, the vivid imagination, or their preference for solitude which are often the characteristics that can generate detailed and plausible, yet highly imaginative and dramatic outcomes for a story. What helps many of the Stephen King novel adaptations achieve reasonable success when translated to film is the addition of the tormented writer, fighting for silence, sanity and survival, who can be open and vulnerable to any supernatural forces that choose to haunt and torment them. The Shining (1980), Misery (1990), and 1408 (2007) were all successful films which utilized this formula with their protagonists.
On the other hand, The Domicile (2017) has a writer (or playwright) as the main character, but his profession is merely an afterthought, and an excuse for supportive characters to visit him. The opportunity to utilize the mind and skills of the writer, unfortunately, is wasted.
Steve Richard Harris plays Russell Brody, a playwright and Katherine Flannery plays Estella, Russell’s pregnant wife. Upstairs, Estella’s sister Samantha (Amanda Ruth Ritchie), doing the worst impression of Dee Wallace in The Frighteners (1996), is being sedated and cared for by nurse Grace (Cara Mitsuko). As Russell and Estella are living out their happy lives, a ‘shadow creature’ pushes Estella down the stairs. Both Estella and her baby lose their lives. A year later, Russell is still living in their mansion, now in a deep depression with writer’s block. His increased alcoholism does not affect his duties, as he still visits his wife he buried in the backyard, and on sunny days he mows the lawn and chops wood shirtless. Russell’s co-writer and confidant David (Demetrius Stear) visits and checks up on him, with little to contribute to the novel or to Russell’s state of being. The two of them do not collaborate much, they simply chat about life, drink, and get high together. They have a disagreement at one point and start a slap fight, then end up wrestling later on. Bonnie (Angela Nicholas), Russell’s publisher suggests that Russell ‘get laid’. Russell takes her advice and contacts Lucy (Sara Malakul Lane), with whom he had been having an affair, apparently. The spirit of Estella does not approve of Russell and Lucy spending time together, so aggravation and property disruption ensues.
Director Jared Cohn has directed 22 films to date, with two more in production. Many of his films are direct to video releases or made-for-TV films. From his list of film achievements, it seems like Cohn is following a ‘quantity versus quality’ philosophy.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines domicile as ‘a dwelling place’ or ‘place of residence’. Since The Domicile is primarily filmed on a single set – the house interior – the definition applies, but this dwelling is far from being a sanctuary for anyone. Skip this one.