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With: Taissa Farmiga, Alexandra Daddario, Crispin Glover, Sebastian Stan
Written by: Mark Kruger, based on a novel by Shirley Jackson
Directed by: Stacie Passon
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 96
Date: 05/17/2019

We Have Always Lived in the Castle (2019)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Merricat Out of the Bag

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Adapted from Shirley Jackson's great gothic novel, Stacie Passon's movie is perhaps a bit on the light side, but she nonetheless creates a strong, vivid atmosphere in which the characters can flourish.

In We Have Always Lived in the Castle, 18 year-old Mary Katherine Blackwood (Taissa Farmiga) lives on a huge, secluded estate with her older sister Constance (Alexandra Daddario) and their slightly confused, wheelchair-bound Uncle Julian (Crispin Glover). The rest of their family died of poisoning, and Constance was blamed, but was acquitted.

Once a week Mary Katherine (or "Merricat") makes a trip to town for supplies, and must endure cruel taunts from hateful townspeople, but otherwise she is happy. That is, until her cousin Charles (Sebastian Stan) arrives for an extended stay. Though Charles claims to be offering his help, he instead appears to be more interested in a safe full of money, and in luring Constance away from the house. Merricat takes an instant dislike to him; she begins to use her best spells to drive him away, but she may have met her match.

To start, Passon's casting is spot on. Her four lead performers all have a certain appealing edgy quality to them, and none of them are afraid of genre or horror work. They all dive deeply into the strong material. We Have Always Lived in the Castle preserves Jackson's themes of evil hidden among the everyday, not only the hate spewed by the villagers, but also the supreme ego and male entitlement embodied by Charles.

If the movie is missing something, though, it's that Charles comes across as a bit too evil here. Stan plays him a bit too broadly, and since the movie is missing the voice of Merricat's deceptive narration, the portrayal is a little too out in the open.

Otherwise, Passon's beautiful staging and the majestic, intricate sound design helps convey the feel of a house that has been much the same for a very long time. And even though We Have Always Lived in the Castle has a bright, swift quality, and it doesn't necessarily betray the moody heart of the story. All in all, Jackson's fans should find plenty to savor here.

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