I’m trying to stay away from reviewing older movies – older than about 2011 – as I’d like to not tread on territories of reviews that have probably been done to death. This movie defied me to not review it. I had never heard of this movie. I don’t know if it didn’t get wide release (or even theater release at all), bad press, or poor reviews but something kept it completely off my radar. Horror movies are ALWAYS on my radar. Although, to call The Presence a “horror” movie is misleading. My fiance and I were tooling around on HBO GO trying to find a good spooky movie, and this popped up under the “Horror/Sci-Fi” category. It was from one of the guys who did Blair Witch, and the synopsis sounded interesting, so we watched it.
The Presence opens with a series of long takes, and there is no dialogue for at least 20 minutes. I was worried it was going to be boring, but it sets the pace of the movie nicely. It opens with a house in the forest. In the house is a man, and we immediately feel something is not right with the situation. We see a series of long takes of him in various rooms not doing anything, but his expressions range from angry to lost to sad. Next we see Mira Sorvino arriving via boat to the house. She enters and begins to settle in. The man seems to be angry that she’s there, and we quickly come to understand that he’s a ghost and she cannot see him at all. For a bit, we just see scenes of her going about her life in the cabin and every now and again the ghost is standing just out of frame watching her. It’s a very interesting juxtaposition, and the cinematography in the opening is beautiful. There is a really cool scene where she falls asleep, and the camera is pulled in close to her face. Slowly, the camera pans back and we see the ghost (played masterfully by Shane West) laying in the bed next to her looking pale and tragic, and this look of longing washes over his face.
After a bit, Mira’s boyfriend (Justin Kirk) shows up to surprise her. We learn that She is a writer, and this is her family cabin. She uses it as a writing retreat, and she finds the absence of modern technology clears her head and helps her write. Justin has a hard time getting by at the cabin due to the lack of electricity or running water (other than well-pumped water), but he makes an effort to please Mira. A lot of the humor here is played out at his patient yet frustrating attempts to do normal things like light the stove, make coffee, and use the outhouse under such rustic conditions. The ghost continues to haunt them just off frame, but his emotions seem to turn more towards anger whenever the boyfriend is around.
Throughout the movie up until now, we get hints that something happened to her in the past. During a touching scene on the mountain, Justin proposes to her and tells her “I’m not like the men in your family. I’m far from perfect, but I’m good”, so some bad shit went down, we just don’t learn what until later. Shortly after the proposal, “something” causes Justin to lose his footing, and he almost falls to his death, and we immediately assume it’s the ghost. Back at the cabin we begin to hear whispering and more noises, and it seems that Mira is becoming increasingly irritable and erratic. At one point, the ghost is standing outside of their bedroom, and the record player starts playing. We assume it’s the ghost causing this to happen, but he looks as confused as the humans do. Could there be ANOTHER presence in the cabin?
Our suspicions are confirmed when the ghost walks into the dining room to see a pale man in black sitting next to Mira, whispering in her ear. He seems to be poisoning the two humans against each other by putting horrible thoughts in their head. Though we never learn who the man in black is, he is able to interact with the humans and the ghost, and he seems to be playing them off each other. Telling Mira things like “He is going to do to you what your father did. He’s going to do to your children what your father did to you”, and trying to convince the ghost to harm the boyfriend and he’ll be rewarded by “the master” if he does.
The rest of the movie plays out in a very interesting manner and the pace picks up considerably, and rushes head long into an end that leaves a lot to interpretation. My fiance and I discussed the movie for a while afterwards, and it seems like there are many plausible options to what could be going on and who the ghost and the man in black could be. Even looking back, I can’t call this a horror movie. It’s more like a love story that happens to have some ghosts. I would strongly recommend this to the suspense/ghost story enthusiasts out there, but don’t expect frights and chills. I would also recommend this to people who want a good love story, but don’t expect fluffy kittens and roses.
The creepy way in which the ghost would stand motionless and only track the people with his eyes
It was a bit slow at times