In the opening minutes of Adam Ethan Crow‘s Lair, a masterful sense of tension is introduced that near-immediately puts its audience on guard. An eerie musical score, an unseen force, a bloodied body…nightmarish additives that deliberately only tell fragments of a whole story.
From here we are introduced to Steven Caramore (Corey Johnson, having an absolute ball of a time) whose conversation with his colleague, Ben (Oded Fehr), sets up the film’s eventual supernaturally-leaning personality as Ben confesses his crimes of murdering his family were not his own doing, but of a sinister force that possessed him to do so.
It may not be the most original plotting, but Crow’s script at least indulges in the type of fun one can have with this haunted subgenre of horror. Having Caramore be a sceptic, in spite of him being an investigator of paranormal activity, invites a certain relatability, whilst the eventual focus on a same-sex couple (Aislinn De’Ath and Alana Wallace) and their children lends the film a topical edge without over saturating the fact that it’s presenting such a progressive image.
The aforementioned couple and their children become unknowingly involved in Caramore’s attempt at debunking the existence of supernatural entities, with him secretly recording their household hoping that anything that goes bump in the night can be readily explained. This being a horror film though means he’ll have his faith shaken, and when he can’t comprehend certain images, Lair gradually escalates towards a rather typical (at least for the horror genre) ending that gives way to wild, unbridled violence and jump scares.
Lair largely aims for subtle scares and shock imagery whilst laying a particular focus on its characters that its ending can’t help but feel slightly rushed and out of place. By no means is the film let down by such carnage, it just perhaps needed a few more extra minutes as the broken momentum adhered to in the climax doesn’t do Crow’s scripted vision justice.
Injecting a certain realism with his depictions of same-sex partnerships and devoting time to getting to know his characters as opposed to setting them up merely to die, Crow has created something worthy of investment with Lair. Even if the balance of drama and horror – at times it feels a little melodramatic – isn’t always smoothly executed, the surprising violence and comedy throughout indicates the first-time feature-length filmmaker has laid the foundation for what works within the genre.
THREE STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Lair is available to rent and/or buy on DVD and physical now.