Imagine yourself in England, during the 1940’s, in the height of World War 2. The chaos, turmoil, destruction, paranoia, and overwhelming sense of helplessness feeding your every twitch and muttered word. Now, imagine all of that, except translated into a Soap Opera-like story, with none of the aforementioned tension, and a touch of Satanic rituals. This, my friends, is The Baylock Residence…
…Written/directed by Anthony M. Winson, The Baylock Residence starts off simply enough: Susanna Baylock (Karen Henson) is living in England during the 1940’s with her maid, Annabel (Sarah Wynne Kordas). While Susanna is clearly distraught, she also just so happens to fall down the stairs and FUCKING DIE. First two minutes. Decent start, poor (though practical) makeup effect.
Queue her sister, Patricia (Kelly Goudie), to come to the residence – yes, that residence – to claim her late sister’s home. The two women (Patricia and Annabel, the maid) become acquainted and Patricia begins to get her footing in the current situation. After asking Annabel to stay with her in the residence, Patricia learns her brother-in-law, Victor (Kieron Brook), had been “missing for some time” previous to her sister’s death (FORESHADOWING?!?). Odd noises happen at night, both women are in agreement something bizarre is happening, then there’s this weird (and very Lynch-ian) dream/dance sequence with Patricia and who we can assume is Victor that randomly stumbles into the story’s canon much like a badger with a mustard allergy would prance into a designer sunglasses store.
As the story continues, it became very clear to me that the entire affair was playing out more like a Soap Opera with a pinch of spooky ghosts than a fully committed horror film. Though it could’ve excelled at being a slow burn, the dialogue and delivery was very monotonous and underwhelming. Kelly Goudie does a fine-enough job as the main character, but lacked in drawing me in, partly because of the script, mostly because of the camera work.
I’m an indie-horror/thriller slow burn fanboy. I love David Lynch, I loved Hagazussa, and I want to hang out with Shane Carruth for at least several drinks. That being said: it’s all about the camera work for me. It can make or break a film. Unfortunately, it nearly broke this one like an egg breaking in a muffin-shaped garbage disposal.
Lacking in claustrophobic shots and the like to build tension, Winson has an abundance of static, wide-angle shots. Though this works quite well for discourse between characters, it really gives the film the Soap Opera-esque feeling I’ve mentioned before. With the actors and script not building tension, sometimes great cinematography will make up for it, but The Baylock Residence contains very little of this.
There is one point in the first third that contains a spoooooky scene involving some flashes of lightning and the Victor dude, and it’s done well. I liked that. I thought the director was onto something here, but it’s the only tension-builder that actually grabbed my attention. The overall visual quality of the film was surprisingly crisp as well. Credit where credit is due.
As the story continues, it visits popular horror tropes without ever capitalizing or leaning into a specific one. I felt like this would’ve helped at least give it a campy, B-movie-type feel, but instead becomes a melting pot of Satanic cults, anagrams of names, the Victor dude being a little strange… all shot in the style of a Soap Opera.
The Baylock Residence contains things that go bump in the night, extremely well-applied matte lipstick, and roams through its entire dull, dialogue-heavy story like a drunk stumbling through an episode of Downtown Abbey. Much like coating a porcupine in pineapple chutney and using it as a bowling ball, the film fails to knock more than a few pins down in the process.
The Baylock Residence is now haunting VOD from Wild Eye Releasing.
By Zach Gorecki