At Granny’s House

Things At Granny’s House are never quite the same after Rebecca (Rachel Alig) moves in. She’s been hired as a care provider for Marion Rogers (Glenda Morgan Brown), aka Granny, who doesn’t seem particularly infirm, but never mind that. Her oily son bullies Marion into accepting the live-in aide so that he won’t have to visit anymore.

The new companion is an icy presence, with a Stepford Wives-type smile pasted on her face.

But almost as soon as Rebecca takes up residence the sweet veneer begins to fade and she becomes a domineering, manipulative force. She admires the stuffed birds of prey that decorate her room — a red flag if there ever was one. They were apparently left there by Marion’s late physician husband. Rebecca opts to move into the basement bedroom, located next to the deceased doctor’s office, which is inexplicably also in the basement. Was he the resident amateur taxidermist? Strangely, more than a decade after his death, Dr. Rogers’s lair is still chock full of pharmaceutical goodies.

Once she settles in, Rebecca pushes Marion to sign up for an AirBnB-type online site and let strangers stay in the spare bedroom, to which Marion reluctantly agrees. So, now you’ve got a controlling sociopath, a parade of vulnerable characters looking for a short-term stay, and a room full of neat stuff — chloroform, hypodermic needles, embalming fluid. What could go wrong?

“…a controlling sociopath, a parade of vulnerable characters looking for a short-term stay, and a room full of neat stuff…”

Not surprisingly, house guests soon go missing, particularly the rude ones who won’t stop blabbing on their cell phones in polite company. This part of the plot presents a missed opportunity of sorts. It would have been interesting if Granny’s House portrayed Rebecca as an etiquette freak, al la Serial Mom. Remember when Kathleen Turner was driven into a homicidal rage by a woman wearing white shoes after Labor Day? Unfortunately, the characters in At Granny’s House lack clear motivation for the things they do, particularly Rebecca. Also, Marion exhibits a change in personality that seems to come out of nowhere. Perhaps adding a touch more dark comedy might have made the whole thing easier to swallow.

Also difficult to accept is that no one seems to come looking for the hapless houseguests after they begin vanishing. Obviously, the missing travelers would have left a mile-wide data trail and sooner or later the police would certainly come knocking. Rebecca supposedly keeps the law at bay by sending out text messages via the unfortunates’ cell phones. As anyone who watches Dateline NBC knows, this strategy usually meets with limited success.

Still, Rebecca stays put, as if she’s certain that the hammer will never come down on her. It’s not until a married couple arrives and adultery rears its head that things begin to come unglued.

“…a useful lesson: check references thoroughly before hiring domestic help.”

On the plus side, the film does keep the story moving forward at a good pace, and it’s fun to see who’s going to drop next. In addition, Rachel Alig is charming and scary as Rebecca. She’s not a vampire, but It’s easy to picture her sticking pins in small animals and retiring to a coffin each night to sleep.

With some tweaks to the script, including the sometimes stilted dialog, the film could have been more credible, but the inconsistencies eventually become distracting and suspending disbelief is bit tougher than it ought to be. With no terribly unexpected plot twists to keep us guessing, the story turns routine as the end approaches.

Dyed in the wool horror/thriller fans may find something to enjoy here, but others might not be as impressed.

If nothing else, At Granny’s House teaches a useful lesson: check references thoroughly before hiring domestic help. You never know who might come through your door.  

At Granny’s House (2015) Written and directed by Les Mahoney. Written by Les Mahoney. Starring Bill Oberst Jr., Rachel Alig, Laura Lee, Les Mahoney, Glenda Morgan Brown.

5 out of 10

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