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Katee Sackhoff Takes on a British Witch in DON’T KNOCK TWICE (Review)

Katee Sackhoff Takes on a British Witch in DON’T KNOCK TWICE (Review)

When a horror flick isn’t exactly the pinnacle of originality, as in the case of the new British occult thriller Don’t Knock Twice, an open-minded horror fan will generally focus on other components, as if to compensate for the familiar plot trappings. Fortunately for all involved, this new British import offers just enough sprinkles of novelty to keep the plot moving along. Plus it benefits from some really impressive audio/visual components, a pair of very strong lead performances, and a handful of legitimately scary sequences.

Katee Sackhoff plays Jess, an artist with a troubled past who once gave her daughter up due to some nasty drug problems. Now it’s nine years later, and young Chloe (Lucy Boynton) finds herself reliant on her estranged mother after a horrific “accident” takes place–so, between the troubled kid, the fractured mother/daughter relationship, and the change of scenery for Chloe,  we’re already dealing with a few fairly routine plot threads. But that doesn’t stop Don’t Knock Twice from forging ahead in a competent and confident fashion. Oh, and Chloe is being haunted by a particularly tenacious witch, it seems.

The complications between mother and daughter–Jess’ drug-addled past, Chloe’s unhappiness with foster care, and a few other issues worth dealing with–bring a sense of weight to the scary stuff because, thanks to a solid screenplay and two strong performances, we gradually grow to care for these two women. Ms. Sackhoff, generally known as a sardonic character player, provides one of her best dramatic performances to date, and Ms. Boynton is easily her equal, starting out as a typically snotty teenager before slowly transforming into a young lady worthy of our empathy.

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Technical aspects also add a lot to the experience. While the first half of Don’t Knock Twice may feel sort like a horror movie you’ve already seen (perhaps two or three times), it’s a consistently beautiful movie to look at. From the quieter moments to the freaky finale, the cinematography by Adam Frisch is nothing short of lovely (even when it’s scary). Equal praise is due to the sound designers for using their own toy box to amp up the subtle tension and outright creepiness at key moments, and the impressive music score adds a nice layer of ominous suspense.

If it’s the strong work from the leads that gives Don’t Knock Twice a bit of emotional heft, it’s the attention to detail that makes it work as a horror story. Not only are the scary moments framed, photographed, and scored with a firm sense of creativity, but the special effects are also more than a little impressive. Javier Botet, a Spanish actor who specializes in playing tall, thin, freaky creatures, continues his strong of memorably disturbing performances as a legendary (and seemingly unstoppable) witch who won’t seem to stop terrorizing poor Chloe. Backed by the film’s impressive audio/visual sensibility and some truly icky make-up, this turns out to be one highly effective horror flick antagonist.

So while a substantial early portion of Don’t Knock Twice may feel a bit familiar, it quickly finds its feet and settles into a nice spooky groove that fans of indie/import horror will be sure to appreciate.

3.5 bewitched burritos out of 5

3.5-burritos1

Images: IFC Films / IFC Midnight

 

 

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