Plotwise, there is little in Bright Hill Road that will come as much of a shock to those who have seen any film in which protagonists check into a ramshackle hotel. Whether it’s a quick stay at a roadside Bates family property, wintering with the Torrance clan at an empty mountain retreat, or checking into the Dolphin Hotel with author Mike Enslin, the cinematic results are rather inevitable.
But that is not to say Bright Hill Road is not worth your time, especially considering it is grounded by the gusto lead performance of Siobhan Williams, who so wholeheartedly delves into her role, she makes the entire visit worthwhile. Williams plays Marcy, a damaged HR manager who shields her past pain with booze, causing her to arrive at work sauced up on the very day a recently fired coworker enters the building and begins arbitrarily executing his former office mates.
To add to her past trauma, Marcy must now cope with survivor’s guilt. In order to re-evaluate her questionable life choices, she heads out on a road trip to seek answers and winds up in a dingy little boarding house on Bright Hill Road. It is staffed only by the quite idiosyncratic innkeeper, Mrs. Inman (Agam Darshi). Inman is curiously cognizant of Marcy’s past, and it’s not long before the young lady is haunted by past events, which manifest themselves in various ways throughout the seemingly abandoned hotel.
And again, Bright Hill Road manages to distinguish itself from the more standard fare of this ilk with very effective jump scares, a suitably ethereal score, and rather crisp cinematography throughout. The entire atmosphere crafted by director Robert Cuffley and cinematographer Robert Riendeau rises far above its minuscule budget, adding to the hazy dream-like state of our protagonist’s existence.
“…the young lady is haunted by past events, which manifest themselves in various ways throughout the seemingly abandoned hotel.”
The hotel receives a third-act visit from another traveling stranger, Owen (Michael Eklund). His ominous presence helps ratchet the tension as Marcy struggles to understand her inability to escape this place. Eklund adds just the right amount of menace (channeling a more sinister Aaron Eckhart vibe) to further complicate Marcy’s journey toward the truth.
It’s a shame writer Susie Moloney poured on the religious symbolism a bit too heavy at times, nudging the movie close to Pureflix territory. Still, it was not enough to undermine what the frightful film had established prior and only momentarily derails its momentum.
Like the brutal time-loop Sysiphean horror that is Triangle, Bright Hill Road attempts to give the audience more than just a few random scares, shrieks, and splatters of blood by placing the action in a much more intimate environment. And like the trapped heroine, played by Melissa George, of Triangle, Williams displays a range of complex, conflicting emotions throughout the movie’s long-fuse build-up.
Williams is the true reason to visit Bright Hill Road, demonstrating that the horrors are not necessarily within the walls of our rooms but within the walls of our minds.
"…rises far above its minuscule budget..."