More a showcase for set design than a riveting thriller, the low-key ghost story "The Charnel House" has an appealingly slick look, but takes way too long to build suspense. This is the rare horror film that could be aptly described as "relaxing."
Callum Blue stars as Alex Reeves, a visionary architect who converts a historic slaughterhouse into a technologically advanced luxury apartment complex, complete with voice-activated commands and TV monitors looping soothing images. After Alex's daughter Mia starts seeing visions of a boy named Rupert, strange glitches begin to spread from flat to flat, unraveling — very slowly — the building's true history.
Director Craig Moss and screenwriters Emanuel Isler and Chad Israel deliver clever ways to tell this story, including using the extra screens in every room to sneak in some creepy imagery and even a little back story. The building itself looks fantastic too, with an unnervingly spartan quality that Moss captures well in fluid camera moves.
But while the cast is talented and the tone is classy, "The Charnel House" never develops any momentum. The movie puts fright on the back burner to tease out a mystery that proves to be too profoundly idiotic to be worth all the bother.
Put it this way: Whenever a haunted house picture leaves audiences wondering if the place still has any vacancies, then something went awry.
'The Charnel House'
Running time: 1 hour, 32 minutes
Playing: Laemmle Monica Film Center, Santa Monica