The Attic

Rating 2½

Directed by Mary Lambert

Written by Tom Malloy and Robert M Reitano, based on a story by Tom Malloy

Starring Elisabeth Moss (Emma Callan), Jason Lewis (John Trevor), John Savage (Graham Callan), Catherine Mary Stewart (Kim Callan), Tom Malloy (Frankie Callan), Thomas Jay Ryan (Dr Perry), Gil Deeble (Detective Carter), Nick Gregory (Detective), Clark Middleton (Dr Cofi) and Alexandra Daddario (Ava Strauss)

When the Callan family move to a new home, the daughter Emma is strangely affected by her new surroundings. She becomes very withdrawn and refuses to leave the house. She also claims to have seen someone in the attic and starts to believe she has a twin sister. Her parents bring in a psychiatrist to try to find a cure for her crippling agoraphobia and refusal to eat, but the only people Emma trusts are her brother Frankie, who has autism, and a sympathetic police detective, John Trevor, who she starts to fall in love with.

This direct-to-DVD 2008 horror film, which seems to have been made two years before its release, has the look of a television movie. It covers very well-worn ground; a house that is intrinsically evil, a dysfunctional family trying to make a new start, a young female who is adversely affected by her surroundings and sees ghost-like figures. The screenplay, which was co-written by Tom Malloy, one of the lead cast of actors (Malloy also wrote the 2008 Eliza Dushku film ‘The Alphabet Killers’), leaves a lot to be desired, which might go some way towards explaining the often decidedly unconvincing acting. What rescues the film and makes it worth watching is Elisabeth Moss.

I first noticed Moss in the sadly short-lived Shaun Cassidy-created television series ‘Invasion’ in 2005, although she had already been around for a very long time at that point, notably in the early 1990s television series ‘Picket Fences’ and playing Zoey Bartlet in ‘The West Wing’. She also had a lead role in the popular 1995 television family film ‘Escape to Witch Mountain’ and that same year played a teenage Ashley Judd in a biopic of the mother and daughter country duo Naomi and Wynonna Judd. She has subsequently hit something of a high point playing Peggy Olson in ‘Mad Men’ and I think she is the best thing about that highly acclaimed multi-award winning series, although I cannot say it is one I watch very often.

The character Moss plays in ‘The Attic’ is similar in some respects to the one she played in ‘Invasion’, a troubled individual who becomes increasingly unhinged. This is a role she is clearly very adept at playing, although her other notable roles show that she has a wide acting range.

‘The Attic’ is not a memorable film by any stretch of the imagination. It’s clichéd and not especially well made, but it pressed a number of my buttons and I enjoyed it. Director Mary Lambert’s other credits include the 1989 horror film ‘Pet Sematary’ and various Madonna pop videos from the 1980s.

Review posted 4 November 2009

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