- Run Time
- 1 hour and 54 minutes
VP Content Ratings
- Sex & Nudity
- Star Rating
See how they conceive evil, and are pregnant with mischief, and bring forth lies.
This is sort of a Gothic horror film for senior citizens, thanks to the goose bump-rising performance of Lesley Manning as the matriarch of a North Dakota family. But writer-director Thomas Bezucha’s adaption of Larry Watson’s 2013 novel does not start there but in neighboring Montana. As all good horror thrillers, it starts on a peaceful note on the ranch of Margaret and George Blackledge (Diane Lane and Kevin Costner) where their son James Ryan Bruce), his wife, Lorna (Kayli Carter), and the couple’s infant son, Jimmy also live. George was a sheriff before retiring, and Margaret had trained wild horses.
The family’s downward arc begins with a freak accident that kills James. Three years later Lorna marries out of towner Donnie Weboy, and the three move into an apartment in town. One day while Margaret is shopping in town she spots the three, apparently having just visited an ice cream parlor. Little Jimmy drops his. Donnie angrily berates the boy, Lorna tries to intervene, and is shoved and slapped by her husband. Margaret is upset by this spectacle, but before she can do anything about it, the three vanish. More worried than before, Margaret and George consult with the current sheriff, who is able to discover that the Weboys have moved to North Dakota.
Margaret vows to go there to find out what is happening to their grandson. George is hesitant, but quickly agrees to accompany her, the pair setting off in their Chevy.
What they encounter in Gladstone, ND and at the large gothic house a way outside of town changes what has been a domestic drama of grief and loss into a horror story worthy of Poe. The Weboy clan is a large one, headed by porkchop-cooking Blanche, who invites the reluctant Margaret and George to dinner as they await the return of Lorna and little Jimmy. Actually, the first Weboy the Blakledges meet is Billy (Jeffrey Donovan), whose fake friendliness makes one feel on edge. It is he who guides them on the circuitous route to the clan’s lair.
There is a poignant interlude on the journey when the travelers encounter the Native American youth Peter Dragswolf (Booboo Stewart) astride a horse that has wandered away from its owner. During the evening the three become acquainted, the youth recounting the bitter story of his being taken from his mother to be trained in the White man’s ways at an institution that sounds more like a concentration camp than a school. He has been living in a crude shack by himself since fleeing his confinement. Of course, he will re-enter Margaret and George’s lives at an important moment.
When Lorna and Jimmy do show up with Donnie, the already tense atmosphere becomes explosive, with the two visitors compelled to leave with matters unresolved. That night includes painful mayhem at the visitors’ motel and a rushed visit to the hospital; and the next day the refusal of the local sheriff to enforce the law—indeed, he even poses an unsubtle threat to Jimmy’s life. Events show that the words of the 7th Psalm describe well the nest of vipers answering to the Weboy name. They represent humanity at its worst, and so true to the Gothic horror genre whose god is a god of wrath, their fate is well deserved. No redemption and transformation of character for them. The holocaustic climax makes the viewer (at least this one) wonder if the grandparents should have stayed home. It certainly does suggest that the cost of caring, and thus trying to protect, a loved one can be dreadfully high.
No questions for this escapist but entertaining film.