Horror filmmaking can be so sloppy and dependent on genre tropes that it’s tempting to mistake simple competence for real quality. This vaguely-tangential-to-the-Conjuring-universe entry is set in 1973 Los Angeles, where widowed social worker Anna (Linda Cardellini) discovers that a centuries-old homicidal spirit—manifesting as a veiled woman in desperate need of exfoliating—has attached itself to her two children. For a moment or so, there’s a suggestion that the screenplay will develop a metaphor for the pressure on single mothers after an emotional trauma, but it’s discarded too quickly to amount to anything, leaving fairly empty characterizations. Fortunately, first-time feature director Michael Chaves handles his creepy set pieces with uncommon patience and confidence; he’s got a great sense for drawing out audience tension past the point where you’d typically expect the jump-scare. The third act turns into one extended supernatural siege, with a spiritual healer (Raymond Cruz) trying to protect Anna’s family, and your mileage may vary as far as whether you should expect more from horror than delivering a solid dose of booga-booga.
Director: Michael Chaves
Producer: James Wan, Gary Dauberman, Emile Gladstone, Richard Brener, Dave Neustadter, Walter Hamada, Michelle Morrissey and Michael Clear
Cast: Linda Cardellini, Roman Christou, Jaynee-Lynne Kinchen, Raymond Cruz, Marisol Ramirez, Patricia Velasquez, Sean Thomas, Tony Amendola, Irene Keng, Oliver Alexander, Aiden Lewandowski, Paul Rodriguez, John Marshall Jones, Ricardo Mamood-Vega, Jaydan Valdivia and Andrew Lee