Yvonne Strahovski is Laura, a mother to two young daughters (Kayla, played by Anna Pniowsky, and Maddie, played by Abigail Pniowsky). The three arrive at their isolated holiday home, hours ahead of hubby/dad Shawn (Justin Bruening). Things start to get dark and strange when the girls find a small outdoor tea party, and one eats a cake that doesn't give her the happy full feeling that cake should. It may actually have been poisoned. And then everyone finds that he's out there. But who is he, and what does he want?
First of all, and I hope this doesn't sound too patronising, this in no way feels like a debut feature from director Quinn Lasher or writer Mike Scannell. The criticisms I have of the film aren't in line with criticisms I would have of some flawed first outing. Scannell certainly frames the central story in an interesting way, and Lasher enjoys the simplicity of the concept while building things to what many may view as a tense and interesting final act.
Strahovski walks a fine line between sheer panic and always keeping enough of her wits about her to ensure that her daughters are the focus of any plans to get to safety, and both of the Pniowsky girls (sisters? I'm going to go ahead and assume so) do well, even if the girl playing Maddie spends the majority of the movie being sick and tired, in a post-vomit state. Bruening isn't on screen for long, but he's fine in his role. You also get Julian Bailey as Owen, a young man who lives nearby and meets the family when they first arrive. I guess he also plays a main suspect once the terrorising begins, but that leads me to the more critical viewpoint.
There's far too little tension here. If you're going to keep the central cast so small then you need to be able to really ratchet up the tension, and this doesn't. There are one or two fine moments, but as soon as you realise that the film-makers aren't going to take things in a certain direction then it simply becomes a waiting game until the end credits. Everyone involved should have kept going down the tunnel, as it were, to darker and darker depths. Alternatively, throw in more disposable characters, allowing for a few more moments of gratuitous bloodshed throughout. To fall in between the two just leaves the end result a bit less satisfying.
There's also not enough here to make it satisfying in terms of movie logic. While Scannell can be praised for creating something that feels like a nice, macabre, fairytale, it holds together like wet tissue paper when you get to the end. The motivation never feels legitimate, and this is one of those films in which some people are killed immediately while others are left in pain as the killer procrastinates long enough for a fight back to start.
It's worth a watch. I'd go as far as saying that this is better than quite a few better-known horror releases of the last few years. Just try not to think too much about all of the stuff that doesn't work.