Creepy children are always good fodder for horror-leaning films, and Here Before, whilst more psychological thriller than all-out horror, is no exception with writer/director Stacey Gregg utilising the premise and twisting it just so.
Andrea Riseborough leads the charge as Laura in this small, gradual thriller that focuses on young Megan, a seemingly friendly school girl whose often neglected by her mother, leading her to seek comfort in that of Laura and her family. Initially captivated by Megan, the attention Laura receives starts to unnerve her as time grows, with painful memories of her own deceased daughter, Josie, billowing under the surface.
Megan’s unsettling knowledge of Laura’s life starts to convince Laura that Josie has somehow been reborn within Megan, leading both their families to question their sanity, ultimately uncovering deep-seated secrets in the process. It’s not an entirely original premise, but Gregg at least has the smarts to twist the narrative so that as we start to feel comfortable in our own uncovering of procedures, he takes a swing that shifts our perspective and alters character motivation.
Working with such material that has the potential to spiral out of control, Gregg has thankfully laced his film with impressive, reliable talent – none more so than Riseborough. A chameleon-like actress who completely disappears into her roles, Laura’s mental state of gradual uncertainty could give way to an exaggerated, unrestrained performance which, wisely, Riseborough never submits to. It’s a relatable performance, even with such a premise, and Here Before is a better film because of how she anchors it.
Though it may occasionally falter due to narrative conveniences – certain reveals may irk invested viewers – Here Before is nonetheless an intriguing chiller that delights in presenting as a supernatural thriller, only to twist itself when we least expect it to.
THREE AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Here Before is screening as part of this year’s SXSW Film Festival, which is being presented virtually between March 16th and 20th, 2021. For more information head to the official SXSW website.