I’ll be honest: the only reason why I watched this movie is because it co-starred Hugh Bonneville. I am a big fan of Downton Abbey and was eager to see him in a role other than the luxurious Lord Grantham. I also made a New Year’s Resolution a few weeks ago to watch a hundred horror movies this year (though I would file this strictly under thriller), and thanks to the gift of Netflix Instant on my Blu-Ray player, I’ve been knocking them back since Christmas. When this title came up, I thought, “How bad could it be?” It features one of my favorite actors and was produced in England (a country noted for high production values). However, as Knife Edge plodded along like sludge through a sifter, I realized, yes, it was pretty bad. Certainly not the worst thing I have ever seen, especially in the horror genre, but for a story that was pretty interesting, it suffered from a lack of direction and an amount of flashbacks and premonitions that could put later seasons of Lost to shame.
If there are some positives to discuss before we get into the negatives, I will say that the cinematography was quite good. The film features a lot of gorgeous shots of the English countryside as well as the inside of a beautiful mansion. The flashback scenes, though too many, are filmed in an interesting style, and if not used to nauseum, would have been very effective. The music also does a lot to add to the intensity of a semi-exciting last few minutes, but we tend to run out of good things to say right here.
As is the case with most horror movies that feature a large, possibly haunted house with a dark past, the storylines run the risk of being too vague. What the director thinks will add to the mystery ends up hurting the finished product with confusion when we do find out exactly what is going on. The film centers around a family of three moving in to a large house where it is discovered several grizzly murders occurred decades ago. Over time, we realize they actually have a connection to the people living and working at the house. Natalie Press and Mathieu Boujenah star as the husband and wife, while Bonneville acts as the wealthy family’s financial adviser who wants to be a little bit more.
Aside from suffering from a lack of direction early on, Knife Edge also tries to become many different films. The idea of a house much too big for the family living there with a dark past has been done over and over again, as is the subplot of the hauntings a person is experiencing actually being caused by a person wanting to drive them insane because of an ulterior motive. There is a cat-and-mouse chase in the end that is a straight rip of The Shining (include the breaking through of a bathroom door; thankfully with a knife, not an axe), while viewers might find similarities throughout to the 1980 film Changeling. There is also a scene where Press is attacked by a crow, which just screams The Omen and its sequels. Director Anthony Hickox also manages to use every horror cliché in the book: someone standing in front of the bathroom vanity mirror, opening the cabinet, and closing it to reveal something startling in the reflection, as well as someone staring out a window at night, when again, something scary slams into it. The only cliché that didn’t manage to make its way into this 90-minute boat anchor is a phone ringing loudly to break dead silence. The film also has a very underwhelming and abrupt ending, which makes me think the director was contractually obligated to deliver a cut no more than an hour and a half (part of me is thankful for that).
As I said earlier, this movie is not horrible, but it does move along very slowly. It picks up a little bit in the end as we learn more, and manages to avoid not going into some cheesy special effects bonanza—instead, we have to settle for gallons of digitized blood. This is a story that is somewhat predictable and has been done many times over in various forms, but the acting manages to hold up (except when Boujenah emphatically screams the F-word on several occasions, then it becomes laughable) throughout, and somehow manages to keep us from grabbing the remote and shutting it off. I do wish more time was given to the back story, and the flashbacks became longer sequences or vignettes, rather than just split-second bursts. If anything, Downton Abbey fans will want to watch to see a much darker side to Hugh Bonneville, and fans of British cinema will enjoy the scenery and the inside of yet another mansion. Scary? Not at all. Worth watching? Eh, save it for a snowy day when you have nothing else to do. Final rating: 5 out of 10.