LAIR movie poster | ©2021 1091 Pictures

LAIR movie poster | ©2021 1091 Pictures

Rating: Not Rated
Stars: Corey Johnson, Anya Newall, Aislinn De’Ath, Alana Wallace, Kashif O’Connor, Sean Buchanan, Lara Mount, Alexandra Gilbreath, Oded Fehr
Writer: Adam Ethan Crow, additional material by Stuart Wright
Director: Adam Ethan Crow
Distributor: 1091 Pictures
Release Date: November 9, 2021

LAIR reverses the usual cursed-objects horror set-up. Instead of a team of people trying to retrieve the various things, a la FRIDAY THE 13TH: THE SERIES or WAREHOUSE 13, LAIR gives us someone who’s distributing these things.

Steven Caramore (Corey Johnson) is, to put it kindly, a scumbag. Caramore has been in the business of staging fake paranormal phenomena for a decade. Now his partner in fakery, Ben Dollarhyde (Oded Fehr), is in jail.

Ben is accused of murdering his wife and young son. Ben doesn’t deny that he physically committed the acts, but insists to Caramore that he was possessed at the time, due to a cursed piece of tree. The supernatural they’ve mocked is real.

Caramore thinks Ben is either bluffing or genuinely insane. Even Ben’s lawyer (Alexandra Gilbreath) takes this more seriously than Caramore does.

However, Caramore comes up with an idea that may help Ben’s defense and will definitely help his bank account. Given access to an empty apartment building in London, the American Caramore sets up shop in one flat, and rents out the one across the hall.

Caramore’s plan is to swap out supposedly cursed objects in the rented apartment, and see if any of them get a rise out of the new tenants. To this end, he plants hidden cameras and microphones and records them surreptitiously.

Caramore’s unknowing test subjects are relatively new English couple Carly (Alana Wallace) and Maria (Aislinn De’Ath), on vacation in the big city with Maria’s daughters, sixteen-year-old Joey (Anya Newall) and eight-year-old Lilly (Lara Mount).

We actually come to like the newly-formed family. Their existing issues – concerns about how well Carly is integrating as a stepparent with the kids, Joey being a teen who wants to date – dovetail well with the corrosive effect of what Caramore is doing.

Director/writer Adam Ethan Crow creates a strong sense of claustrophobia. However, because he is so loose with how everything works, we can’t fully understand the rules. This eventually decreases the dread.

Crow also employs some fades to black where we’d normally expect straight cuts or cross-fades. This is a stylistic choice that is interesting, but it winds up feeling like it ought to be more significant than it is.

By the end, we get an explanation of a few aspects of what’s happening, but this produces more questions. (Maybe these will be explained in the sequel.)

Johnson is excellent as the sweaty, self-justifying Caramore. Wallace and De’Ath give good dramatic performances, Newall invites our empathy, and Mount is charming.

While hardly a big deal, it should be noted that LAIR has an odd title, considering its plot. To quote a different horror film, it’s not the house that’s haunted.

LAIR has a good concept and well-drawn characters. It would be better if its structure lived up to its potential.

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