A good way to disarm a horror audience from anticipating the scares would be to use a setting that is an unassuming location for terror to to take place. The small town of Haley is the perfect environment for AT GRANNY’S HOUSE. It’s rural, suburban, and picturesque… no one would expect abduction, torture, and murder. Add to that several characters who would be expected to be weak and gentle, but who are bloodthirsty instead, and you have the perfect combination for a psychological thriller to sneak right up on you, grab you by the gut, and and not let you go.
Frank Rogers (Bryant Watts) is trying to find the perfect caretaker for his elderly mother Marion (Glenda Morgan Brown). He thinks that he has found the perfect solution in Rebecca (Rachel Alig). It doesn’t take long for Rebecca to show her true colors. She convinces poor old Granny Marion that she should let travelers crash at her house that Rebecca met through a website called myfreebed.com. People disappear, law enforcement becomes suspicious, there is a sordid love affair, and then there are enough twists and turns to almost fill an hour and a half.
The first mistake is to never underestimate the elderly. Any good horror nerd worth their weight in Mountain Dew Code Red, could tell you that the more innocent a character seems, the more diabolical they actually are. Glenda Morgan Brown is perfect as “Granny.” Her portrayal of Marion Rogers would fit in flawlessly with those of Mr. and Mrs. Ulman from THE HOUSE OF THE DEVIL or of Grandma in FLOWERS IN THE ATTIC.
The whole cast is spot-on. All the interactions between them seem very natural. Rebecca comes off as instantly creepy as the new caregiver. She instantly brings to mind Jenny Seagrove in the 1990 horror classic THE GUARDIAN, but without the supernatural edge. You would think with how over-excited she gets when they have visitors, her temperament would expose her diabolical scheme, but somehow she always pulls it together. She’s very reminiscent of Jaime Murray as Lila Tournay, the psycho girlfriend in Season 2 of DEXTER. Never trust a hot girl who has you kill your wife — it’s just common sense. I love her! We need more female psychos in cinema.
The male characters in AT GRANNY’S HOUSE seem secondary, and that’s okay. Fuck men’s rights advocates — the future is female. That being said, the guys in this film do a great job in their roles as well. I love that the film’s director, Les Mahoney, plays the pervy, scumbag visitor Ted Steiner. He does a terrific job at making us hate his character. I was also thrilled to see one of my favorite character actors — and someone I believe to be a modern horror icon — Bill Oberst Jr. in the role of detective Boarstag. Oberst is always amazing, and even though he isn’t in the movie long, he definitely steals all the scenes he’s in.
The biggest flaw in AT GRANNY’S HOUSE is that it just moves too slow. It completely drags in the third act. It’s a slow burn of a movie, and it needs more bloodshed by the end. That, and the psychos in love sub-plot didn’t add much to the story. If AT GRANNY’S HOUSE was a bit campier, it could get away with these flaws. As it stands, it’s pretty humorless, and unfortunately that does a disservice to the movie.
The idea of people being lured by an shared living space website/app is topical and relevant. It’s a smart way to establish Rebecca’s and Marion’s relationship, and it’s a clever plot device. The idea is very reminiscent of of AirBnB. Most younger people know how to use such things, but poor Marion just seems like she’s a long for a twisted trip of Rebecca’s creation. It’s such a strange kinship, but it works.
AT GRANNY’S HOUSE is a psychological thriller that is a fine movie. If you can ignore the lulls in the action, then you’re in for a treat. The acting is great, and it’s an interesting, realistic story. It’s worth a watch.