Freyr’s review published on Letterboxd:
Night #23 of Hooptober VIII.
A friend of mine had been pressing me to check this out after really loving it, which did intrigue me considering the otherwise lackluster ratings I'd seen. This is based on a novel by Adam Nevill, who also wrote The Ritual, another interesting element. I enjoyed the film adaptation of that quite a bit, but I haven't actually read either of these novels, so how much could be attributed to the filmmaking and how much to the writing is tricky to say.
Obviously I wound up not liking it nearly as much as my friend did, but I'm also falling in a more positive space than where most seem to have. The cold open is plenty spooky, and I was initially invested in the story. There are some nice background scares, but also a few less endearing jump scares. The narrative also kind of gets stuck in the middle; the general direction of it is made really apparent early on, which kind of robs it of any surprises outside of the physical reveal, which is a bummer. It's also kind of extremely similar to the events of The Ritual in certain ways, which makes me wonder about the variety in Nevill's concepts.
That said, I did find the reveal and subsequent effects to be really cool; not the best looking, but I always respect ambition on a budget, and there are plenty of stylish ideas at work here, especially with "the box". I also appreciate the depth given to the lore behind all this, the real world myth basis, that doesn't feel overexplained. I appreciate the use of off the beaten path entities; like it rewards reading into it and looking at the symbols used. You can just take it as it is as well, though so little is directly explained in the film that it might be frustrating for some viewers too.
My main problems here, outside of a kind of sagging second act that left me waiting for the thing I knew was going to happen to happen, was how certain plot threads felt abandoned, and there lacked enough context for some of the main character's background to feel wholly satisfying. Again, I haven't read the novel, but seeing the pieces in play and seeing how they are cohesive thematically in theory, I am willing to venture the guess that a bit too much go trimmed from novel to film. An argument could be made about ambiguity when it comes to the main character, but the ending sets her on such a clear path that ambiguity about her background simply isn't the answer. You could make the assumption that makes the most sense, but clearly that's not working in the film's favor.
So yeah, I really don't think this is terrible, it has some quality moments, plus a short runtime, but does come up short compared to The Ritual.