Director: Andrew Jones
Writer: Andrew Jones
Producer: Andrew Jones
Stars: Lee Bane, Suzie Frances Garton, Tom Bonington, Sarah Louise Tyler
A secret affair between a handyman and a reverend’s wife parallels a past tragedy at the haunted Borley Rectory.
According to urban legend, the now-demolished Borley Rectory once earned notoriety for supposedly being “the most haunted house in England.” According to this review, “A Haunting at the Rectory” has earned its reputation for being the least haunting horror movie that could possibly be made about the subject.
Evidence including black birds flapping over tombstones on box art, production company North Bank Entertainment’s résumé of fare such as “Night of the Living Dead: Resurrection” (review here), “The Amityville Asylum” (review here), and “Poltergeist Activity” (review here), as well as virtually all VOD and home entertainment outlets touting it as such, points to “A Haunting at the Rectory” as being a terrifying thriller. It isn’t. It’s a tepid soap opera trumped up with random jump cuts to graveyards and scarecrows accompanied by ominous “dun!” sound effects because nothing in the story itself otherwise suggests suspense.
Frank is an aspiring actor who has been taken on as Borley Rectory’s new handyman. Lionel is the resident reverend and his wife is Marianne, a woman so overlooked and oversexed that the workman’s arrival signals a foregone conclusion that she and Frank will become embroiled in a torrid tryst behind Lionel’s oblivious back.
The sexual affair storyline is silly from the get-go. Actor Lee Bane plays the film’s leading man, just as he has in previous Andrew Jones-helmed productions, except his beanpole physique makes him all kinds of wrong for Frank. That is sincerely not intended to disparage or to insult Bane at all, but simply put, his natural build is inherently opposite to the one required of a dark and dreamy beefcake drifter. Watching Bane puff a pipe while an open shirt frames a chest with the same depth as his stomach is as uncomfortably comical as the mustache trying desperately to conjure a seductive Errol Flynn.
In a similar vein, Bane’s counterpart Tom Bonington works individually as soft-spoken and seemingly subservient man of the cloth Lionel, though Bonington doesn’t fit as Marianne’s married mate. “A Haunting at the Rectory” asks its audience to believe that a hyper-sensual blonde with a proclivity for wearing garters down below and nudity up top took a bald and bespectacled priest she is 12 inches taller than for a husband.
Physical appearance should be relatively noncritical, except it fails to sell these relationships as authentic and puts the dynamics of their love triangle well outside of reasonable believability. Ability alone does not make someone right for a role. Woody Allen may be a terrific actor, yet it is perfectly obvious why Warner Brothers would never cast him as Batman.
The forced romance grows more ridiculous when Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” pretentiously overinflates Frank’s slow hand moving up Marianne’s shoulder while she closes her eyes and leans back her head. The supposed sexiness of the fling fueling this film is cold enough for frostbite, and nearly as hollow as the nonexistent horror.
“A Haunting at the Rectory” is the kind of movie born from a production meeting where the conversation is, “what can we make fast and easy,” and not, “what’s an engaging story that would really excite an audience?” North Bank is known for putting together micro-budget productions on the quick and cheap, and nowhere is that more apparent than in the casual way unrelated elements are slapped into “Rectory” to bill it as something it is not. The ultimate plotline is such a careless lump of unresolved threads involving seldom-seen apparitions, malarkey about murdered monks and nuns, and literal skeletons in the closet that it is a wonder the movie makes even a tiny lick of sense.
This snippet of pre-pillow talk between Frank and Marianne accurately captures the roundabout running “A Haunting at the Rectory” does to fill 86 minutes without actually arriving anywhere interesting:
“Boredom really is a killer sometimes, isn’t it?”
“You’re missing the point.”
“No no, I get the point.”
“Oh you do, do you?”
“What exactly is the point?”
“That question Marianne, what is the point? It’s hard for you to see the point right now, isn’t it?”
I can’t speak for Marianne, but here is my white flag of surrender. I have no idea what the point of this movie is at all.
Review Score: 20