Lair (2021) Review
The makers of Lair, a new London set supernatural thriller, are very confident that it will be a success. So confident that they’ve already started development on a follow-up, The Bone Harvest. Is that wishful thinking, or does Lair have what it takes to launch a franchise?
Ben Dollarhyde (Oded Fehr, White Chamber, The Mummy) is in jail, accused of killing his wife and son. There’s no question of whether or not he did it, we saw it in the prologue. He claims that he was possessed when the killing occurred, something that’s ironic since he and his partner Steve Caramore (Corey Johnson, Ex Machina, Blood Moon) made a living debunking the supernatural.
Seeing a chance to help his partner out, and more importantly make some money, he decorates his late father’s apartment with allegedly cursed items, and hidden cameras, then offers it up on Airbnb. It’s rented by a vacationing couple Maria (Aislinn De’Ath, Cornered) and her partner Carly (Analla Wallace, Black Site, Black Ops) and Maria’s two daughters Joey (Anya Newall) and Lily (Lara Mount). If they go nuts and kill each other, then Ben’s story must be true, right?
As the director, I didn’t approach Lair as a ‘horror film. I came at it as someone wanting to tell a story in the best way possible. Many great genre movies have a very similar feel. I wanted Lair to have a European aesthetic, in the vein of films like ‘The Orphanage,’ or ‘The Tenant,’ perhaps ‘Diabolique.’ Which could explain why Lair has been described by some as a thriller that culminates into a horror movie.Adam Ethan Crow
Director Adam Ethan Crow and co-writer Stuart Wright, take a family under stress and then add literal demons to their personal ones. It’s a situation you know is going to produce trouble, and Steve is more than happy to watch that trouble, and anything else he finds interesting, unfold. He’s such a scumbag that I liked the demons more than him. Wanting to see him get his becomes a bigger motivation to keep watching Lair than the fate of his tenants.
As a horror film, Lair relies on some very well-used elements, demonic dolls, troubled families and a vacation rental that comes complete with a voyeur. Unfortunately, Crow’s idea of doing something different with them is to film them as if he was directing a mystery or a thriller. There’s none of the touches that set up the scares. The half seen shape at the edge of the frame, or the shot from the perspective of whatever is lurking under the bed.
Robbed of suspense, the resultant scares don’t have the impact they should, although someone walking barefoot over broken glass will always draw a reaction. It also means there’s less to distract from some absolutely awful dialogue and some equally bad plotting. I mean unbelievably bad, as in we’ll just hide all these bodies and nobody will know anything happened bad. And Steve’s assistant who was reluctant to help him with the cursed artifact now has no problems moving bodies?
Lair also badly miscalculates its ending. It leaps ahead to the conclusion, then spends the last twenty minutes backfilling with what happened and how. This may work for people who like found footage films even though they know everyone’s fate. For me, it means there’s no real suspense because I know how it ends.
Lair isn’t entirely without scares, and the last half hour probably would have been effective if it had been presented as it happened rather than as found footage. And while there aren’t a lot of effects, they are fairly well done. Hopefully, if this does become the trilogy the makers intend, they’ll pay a bit more attention to what makes a horror film work before they film the next one.