One horror fan is getting a one of a kind treat tonight (28 April) as new Brit horror Don’t Look Twice gets it’s London premiere at the haunted Rio Cinema in Dalston. The lucky prize-winner will ascend four flights of creaky stairs to take their seat in what remains of the abandoned Victorian auditorium, unused for eighty years! There, in the darkness, they will watch the film’s premiere alone.
Don’t Knock Twice riffs off Knock Down Ginger, which for non-Brit readers was a game UK kids played on their way home from school. The object of the game was to ring a random doorbell and leg it as fast as possible, leaving the householder fuming on the doorstep. Yes it was very irritating, but in Don’t Knock Twice the tables get turned when teenage Chloe (Lucy Boynton) and her care home boyfriend Danny (Jordan Bolger) can’t resist the urge to knock on the door of a house reputed to be haunted by the spirit of an old lady known as Ginger (geddit?) who cut her own throat after being accused of abducting and murdering a child. Word is that Ginger was a witch and a knocking on her door summons a demon to drag the knocker to Hell. How could they possibly resist.
So when Danny gets abducted by a supernatural force Chloe rocks up to Jess, her estranged sculptor mum’s (Battlestar Gallactica‘s Katee Sackhoff) country pile, looking for sanctuary. Does she find it? Well no Ginger naturally comes looking for Chloe and portals to Hell start opening up all over the place, it is a horror film after all.
I thought Don’t Knock Twice was a thoroughly entertaining dose of Brit horror. I liked the whiff of nostalgia for those 50s and 60s haunted house classics like Jack Clayton’s The Innocents (1961) or Robert Wise’s The Haunting (1963), but with the ghostly effects updated stylistically to be a lot more contemporary with lessons learnt from J-Horror. Mark Huckerby and Nick Ostler (from werewolves on a train chiller Howl) have crafted a story packed with twists and turns that sprays red herrings like grape-shot from a cannon as Jess attempts rescue Chloe by unravelling Ginger’s past.
There are plenty of nicely set up and shocks and jump scares delivered thanks to some stunning art direction and cinematography which is then driven home with some of the most the exquisitely polished sound design and music score I have witnessed in a movie for a long time. Thankfully director Caradawg James has resisted the temptation to over do the CGI and the practical effects are delivered with the CGI working in tandem with excellent prosthetics, make-up, costume and location shooting. There is also some wincingly effective body horror.
Sackhoff is an excellent action hero, while Boynton manages to transit from resentful rebellion to an emotional dependency and new-found respect for her mother, amazing what fear can do isn’t it?. There are also nice performances from Iranian born Pooneh Hajimohammadi as Jess’s psychic artist model Tira, and Nick Moran as a hard-bitten copper.
A strangely old-fashioned but also very modern take on a haunting I give Don’t Knock Twice a 666/666
Don’t Knock Twice is in UK cinemas and On Demand 31 March and DVD on 3 April.