Neil Runge | Staff Writer
The 2018 adaptation of the gothic novel We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson is now on Netflix and ready for new eyes. It first premiered at the LA Film Festival, then earlier this year, it was shown in a limited number of theaters. A streaming platform is the perfect place for a movie like this to thrive.
The novel, published in 1962, seems to have a cult following, and since its original release at the LA Film Festival in 2018, so does the movie. Jackson is a popular author within the mystery and gothic writing style. She set an uneasy tone to her stories and it gained her a following, but that cult of die-hard fans is spread far and wide. So, with the movie’s limited release and smaller fanbase it was destined for low box office numbers. Now, on Netflix, all fans of Jackson’s novel can see the story come to life.
That’s exactly what this film does — come to life. The film shines in terms of the actual look of it. The costumes, set pieces and filming locations all beautifully match the eerie and mysterious feel of the novel. It’s a feeling that something is seriously wrong with the Blackwoods but it’s been normalized that this odd and tragic family is around to stay. The film score is icing on the cake. It decorates each scene with a creepy feeling that builds and builds until the true horrors are exposed.
The shine of this movie starts to dull with the dialogue. At times the way the characters speak can be clunky. The actors could have made a mistake. Either way, it can bring a viewer out of the vibe of the movie. Like a fourth wall break in the comedy, these bits and pieces of dialogue that land wrong remind the audience that they are indeed, watching a tale unfold. The goal to build a solid world that people can escape into momentarily fails each time a character says a line that falls into the uncanny valley of human speech. The breaks are remedied by everything else being amazing, but the breaks are still glaring.
The cast list isn’t short of well known actors. American Horror Story: Murder House, Taissa Farmiga plays the main character, Merricat Blackwood, and Marvel star Sebastian Stan in a supporting role as cousin Charles. These two popular actors, along with the rest of the cast give wonderful performances.
Farmiga brings a different type of character to the big screen. It was a departure from her more known role in AHS: Murder House. She leaves behind a loud rebellious daughter in the show to play someone more devious. Merricat is quiet and hides more than a few skeletons in her closet, and Farmiga plays it surprisingly well.
Sebastian Stan brings his usual award deserving acting skills to the table. He busts his acting chops playing the not so secretly dubious cousin of Merricat and her sister Constance. Stan was a joy to watch; he became famous for his role as Bucky Barnes and the Winter Soldier; Bucky being a loyal and funny best friend, then Winter Soldier being a silent killer. To see him play a role that was manipulative and charming was a breath of fresh air.
We Have Always Lived in the Castle is close enough adaptation to the gothic novel from the 60’s. It’s good to watch on a night where someone wants something spooky but not too scary.