I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House (2016) Horror Movie Review and Ending Explained


Osgood Perkins’ “I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House” is a film that defies the conventional horror genre, opting instead for a hauntingly atmospheric narrative that weaves a tale of dread and the supernatural. The movie, which premiered in 2016, has since intrigued and divided audiences with its unique approach to storytelling.

The film follows Lily Saylor, portrayed by Ruth Wilson, a hospice nurse who comes to care for an elderly author, Iris Blum, played by Paula Prentiss. The setting is a secluded mansion in New England, a character in its own right, shrouded in mystery and a palpable sense of history. From the outset, the film establishes a chilling premise: a house marked by death becomes a domain not for the living, but for the ghosts that linger behind.

Perkins employs a dreamlike, circular narrative that blurs the lines between the living, the dead, and those on the cusp of the afterlife. The film’s opening lines, delivered by Lily in a haunting voiceover, reveal that she will not live to see her next birthday, setting a somber tone for the unfolding events. The storytelling is non-linear, with time and memory folding into one another, creating a disorienting but mesmerizing experience.

The cinematography is masterful, with a gauzy focus that adds to the ethereal quality of the film. The use of light and shadow is deliberate, casting an eerie glow that enhances the ghostly presence within the house. The sound design is equally impressive, with the silence of the mansion punctuated by the creaks and whispers of its past inhabitants.

One of the film’s strengths is its ability to instill dread not through jump scares or graphic imagery, but through the slow build-up of tension and the unsettling realization that something is amiss. The narrative is rich with symbolism and metaphor, exploring themes of mortality, memory, and the imprint that individuals leave behind.

The performances are nuanced, with Ruth Wilson delivering a compelling portrayal of a woman grappling with the unknown. Paula Prentiss gives a haunting performance as Iris Blum, whose connection to the otherworldly becomes increasingly evident as the story progresses.

Critics have noted the film’s deliberate pacing, which may not appeal to those seeking traditional horror thrills. However, for viewers who appreciate a more cerebral and atmospheric approach to the genre, “I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House” offers a refreshing departure from the norm.

The movie inevitably draws comparisons to “The Blackcoat’s Daughter” due to its similar aesthetic. While it may not be as exceptional as “The Blackcoat’s Daughter,” it remains quite entertaining. I highly recommend watching “The Blackcoat’s Daughter” if you haven’t already.

Spoiler Ending (Spoiler Alert!)

The ending is somewhat disappointing, yet it’s not hard to decipher. At the movie’s start, the protagonist, Lily, foreshadows the plot when she declares, “I am 28 years old. I will never be 29,” and “A house with a death in it can never again be bought or sold by the living. It can only be borrowed by the ghosts who have stayed behind.” The film revolves around her impending death and her subsequent existence as a ghost.

Upon moving into the house, Lily knew little about Iris. However, when Iris began calling her Polly, it raised her suspicions. She soon discovers that Polly is a character from her horror novel, “Lady in the Walls.” It’s later revealed that Polly was a real person who was murdered in the house years ago and is entombed within the walls, hence the title. Lily comes to the realization that Polly’s spirit is haunting her, leading to her eventual suicide. With no one to care for Iris, she too passes away. In the end, two bodies are removed from the house by the coroner.

The final scene introduces a new family moving into the house, oblivious to its history, while Lily’s ghost continues to haunt the premises. Notably, Polly’s ghost is absent in the conclusion, suggesting that perhaps Polly’s act of killing Lily allowed her to move on. This raises the question: must Lily commit a similar act to find peace? In the closing moments, we see Lily’s ghost roaming the house, ominously watching over two young boys, potentially her next victims.

In the Nutshell

Osgood Perkins’ film is a beautifully crafted piece of cinema that challenges viewers to embrace its slow burn and revel in its haunting atmosphere. It is a film that lingers long after the credits roll, inviting contemplation and discussion among those who appreciate the art of subtlety in horror. Whether it becomes a cult classic or remains a polarizing piece, “I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House” is undeniably a striking entry in the world of psychological horror. I give 4 out of 5 stars.  

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Genre: Haunted House

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