This is what happens when you move into a place nicknamed the “Murder House.”
The Walkers, artist Sarah and structural engineer Patrick, have a 15-year-old daughter, Mia, and a 17-year-old son, Joe, and they’re happy. Well, they were. Sarah’s mother died six months ago, and it just about broke her, resulting in a hospital stay for her and a car accident for Joe that might have been in response to her breakdown. When Sarah takes one too many sleeping pills one night, her family is convinced she’s attempted suicide, and no one believes her when she insists that she didn’t. Looking for a fresh start, Patrick says they can get his childhood home at a steal, but Sarah isn’t convinced. Patrick is obsessed with the house, a once-beautiful Victorian on the Welsh coast that’s been vacant for 15 years after a man named Ian Hooper brutally murdered nearly an entire family there. Patrick tells Sarah that the sea air is just what they need but that she’ll have to use the entirety of her paltry inheritance to help pay for it. Of course, Sarah acquiesces, and chaos inevitably ensues. The house is a dump, and they don’t have the funds to fix it up. Patrick is spiraling, and so are the kids. As Sarah gets to know a few of the townspeople, including a sexy gallery owner, she learns that the story of the Murder House is more sinister, and close to home, than she could have imagined. From the get-go, Patrick is squirrelly, insulting, whiny, and, eventually, downright abusive, making it hard to imagine why poor Sarah married the guy in the first place. He makes her take debilitating meds for her so-called suicide attempt, burns her sketchbooks, and, during one memorable dinner with his co-workers, forces her to eat calamari, which she’s allergic to, then claims to have forgotten about her allergy. There are some creepy elements, like phantom wind chimes, cold spots, and a lurker watching the house. Then there’s that cellar, which is assigned special significance early on. The bones of a good story are here, but, in such a crowded field, Savage's derivative debut doesn’t innovate on the usual domestic suspense tropes (there’s even the requisite asides by the presumed villain).