Having recovered from a shattering emotional breakdown, college professor Ben Marshall (Ed Stoppard) relocates to the countryside with his wife (Sophia Myles) and young son (Isaac Andrews), hoping for a fresh start. He has a teaching job lined up and a new home, Blackwood House to move into; things finally look to be going Ben's way. Until, that is, he starts to feel that something isn't quite right in the house. Finding himself plagued by ghostly visions, Ben discovers the house a dark secret and he becomes obsessed with uncovering the truth behind a disturbing local mystery that could put the lives of his family in danger. His investigation leads him to the sinister local gamekeeper Jack (Russell Tovey) and the ex-paratrooper vicar, Father Patrick (Paul Kaye). Trouble escalates when an old friend Dominic (Greg Wise) and his girlfriend (Joanna Vanderham) enter the frame.
Beautifully filmed in some truly stunning rural locations (you can almost hear the dew dripping from autumnal branches), this tepid haunted house mystery features Ben (Ed Stoppard), his wife Rachel (Sophia Myles) and young son Harry (Isaac Andrews) relocating to a huge and remote country house following some difficult personal times.
As the scant ghostly noises in the night threaten to topple Ben into thinking his sanity is crumbling once more, the main thing that strikes me is how unlikable he is. Irritable and unreasonable, he treats his family very offhandedly, and comes across as exactly the kind of shallow, thoughtless bore I would cross the road to avoid.
A terrific supporting cast including Paul Kaye and Russell Tovey turn in very earnest performances, but sadly the script fails to come to life and remains pretty uninvolving. The problem is, these sinister characters are actually more likeable than Ben, as is sleazy Dominic (Greg Wise) who tries to strike up an affair with Rachel. Up until the last reel you almost wish she would go with him.
As a whole, it is the hero who sinks this unfrightening ghost story. Not that Ed Stoppard is a bad actor, but there is not one note of kindness or sympathy about him, and whether his manner is the result of his earlier breakdown, or whether he is actually correct in his intention to ‘protect’ his family, he severely tests our patience long before the end.