Frightfest: Home Sweet Home: Where Evil Lives (2023)

Director: Thomas Sieben

Running Time: 84 Minutes

Starring: Nilam Farooq, David Kross, Justus von Dohnányi, Olga Von Luckwald

Writer/Director Thomas Sieben opens his latest feature on a rural estate that is occupied only by the heavily pregnant Maria (Nilam Farooq), in the process of transforming her husband's family home into a bed and breakfast. Strange occurrences begin happening including the electricity repeatedly failing, unsettling noises, and another figure sighted on the premises. As she uncovers dark secrets in the basement, it soon becomes clear that a family curse has ensnared her.

With Maria often being the only character on-screen, the film rests on Farooq's tour-de-force performance which effectively conveys the character's fears as she journeys down a rabbit hole of horrific discoveries. What unfolds is a single-take ghost story with shades of Ready or Not, as a night of terror sees a woman's choices stripped from her by outdated ideals. Sadly, that terror was not replicated for viewers.

As the camera follows Maria across the estate in unbroken shots, the aim is for a creeping tone of sustained dread which feels as inescapable for the viewers as the lead. What's unfortunate is how this technically impressive exercise gets in the way of the dread, leaving the sequences to feel overly familiar and unremarkable. What's left is a good try sadly lacking the tension to make the most of this unfolding premise.

Home Sweet Home: Where Evil Lives made its World Premiere at Frightfest 2023