Russel Brody is a playwright who is familiar with the sweet taste of success. But one can only rest on their laurels for so long before they must again prove their worth. Therefore, Russel is looking to make lightning strike twice, by writing a successful follow up play. However, he is somewhat beleaguered by a marital tension that is compounded by the fact that the couple are expecting their first child, all the while they are caring for his wife’s mentally disturbed sister.
Things take a harder downward turn when his pregnant wife Estella suffers a fall down the stairs, claiming her life and the life of her unborn child. As a result of this tragedy, Russel’s mental state is sent spiraling into anguish and despair. In an effort to get him back on track, Russel’s writing partner convinces him to reconnect with a former lover/mistress in hopes that she may serve as his muse and reignite his creativity.
When details of his infidelity come to light, they provoke all manner of antagonistic acts by the vengeful spirit of his deceased wife. Russel begins to think that his grief and excessive alcohol use are affecting his state of mind, but ultimately it becomes clear that Estella’s vindictive spirit is hell bent on plunging his life into absolute misery.
Jared Cohn pulled double duty as screenwriter and director on The Domicile. Perhaps that was too much of an undertaking for Cohn, as neither task was particularly well done. The gist of the story is easy enough to nail down: playwright loses wife, playwright struggles with the loss while trying to write a new play, playwright is also overwhelmed with caring for mentally imbalanced stepsister, and playwright also hooks up with his old mistress. Seem like a lot of elements to piece together…yeah? It definitely is quite a bit to squeeze into a time frame of 82 minutes, especially when it’s incoherently pieced together with a total lack of development. Why are they stuck caring for the crazy sister? What’s the story behind the dark entity in the house that torments the aforementioned crazy sister? Is the movie called The Domicile because the house has some macabre backstory concerning the actual house itself that we, the audience, aren’t made privy to? There are other questions to be asked, but frankly I haven’t the will or the energy to ask them all. Perhaps if the story had been considerably better written and fleshed out, there would be no reason to pose such questions.
As for the performances, they were a mixed bag of disingenuous and mediocre. Exchanges between characters were like a high school with no science program – they lacked chemistry. Much of the time it seemed as if each performer was really only out for themselves rather than establishing any kind of relationship between characters. Some moments also felt as if they were badly improvised or ad-libbed. Whether it was the ”college bro” style banter between Russell, played by Steve Richard Harris, and his writing partner David, played by Demetrius Stear, or the really over reaching portrayal of Estella’s batshit crazy sister Samantha, played by Katherine Flannery, I actually found myself cringing at times. There’s nothing particularly likeable or relatable about any of these characters. So all in all…why should I even care what happens to these characters?
I will admit that the house itself, where the movie was shot, served as a great backdrop for the story, with plenty of dark corners for shadows to creep and spooky noises and creaks to subtlety emanate from. Unfortunately, steadily building tension, suspense and fear through such subtle techniques obviously wasn’t the order of business here.
The Domicile is cursed by a weak foundation and poorly constructed framework…I’m speaking metaphorically of course. In fact, I was forced to compel myself to finish watching since the story wasn’t particularly gripping. And of course its biggest failings are the story and character development, as well as the ham-handed way in which they tried to create any sense of dread, paranoia or insanity. All being said, The Domicile is not exactly a fixer upper, so I recommend boarding up the windows and walking away. 4 / 10