Directed by Adam Ethan Crow.
Written by Adam Ethan Crow, Stuart Wright.
Starring Corey Johnson, Alexandra Gilbreath, Alana Wallace, Anya Newall, Aislinn De’Ath, Sean Buchanan, Zara Symes, Lee Nicholas Harris, Paul Warren, Jen Brister, Simon Balfour, Emily Haigh, Kashif O’Connor, Robert Dukes, Sam Pamphilon, Joseph Mitchell, Anil Desai, David Whitney, Tara Dowd, Andrea Bennett, Jack Sidney Burke, Robb Mookhoek, Nathan Munslow, Joe Zalias, Lara Mount, Oded Fehr
LAIR opens on a man named Dollarhyde (Oded Fehr, who gets top billing, but only shows up for the first few minutes and even then in total shadow) pining in jail, beating himself up for underestimating the power of the supernatural, which resulted in the death of his clients. Dollarhyde was a part of a group of ghost-hunters who scammed people in need of help out of money. Steven (Corey Johnson) is another member of this group still scamming away at his clients. When Steven gets his hands on an artifact that is said to be actually cursed, he scrambles to find a way to make money from this find. Enter the Coulson family, a family of four who move into the apartment Steven owns. In hopes to capture proof of the supernatural, Steven plants the artifact along with multiple cameras in the apartment. Turns out, Steven’s plan works too well and the family is in grave danger.
I’ve seen praise for LAIR online and honestly wonder if we watched the same movie. I don’t like to rip hard into a film, especially one with such a low budget, but man, I have to tell you, LAIR is a steaming hot mess. Where to begin…
The biggest problem is that it seems there is just too much filmmaker Adam Ethan Crow attempted to tackle in this hour and a half-length movie. There’s the scam artist ghost-hunters angle. There’s the very real supernatural angle. There’s the pervy voyeur angle. There’s the lesbian couple attempting to raise two children subplot. There’s a teenager trying to break away from the family and a child who is having conversations with a playmate that isn’t there. There’s police who seem to care too much about the family. There’s a secret conspiracy group collecting paranormal artifacts. It’s just too much and in the end, there just isn’t enough time to delve into any of these plots sufficiently in an hour and a half. So the story just kind of grazes over them all in an unsatisfying way. I wish the filmmakers would have latched on to two (or three at the most) of these plots and simply wrote out the rest. It would have made for a much clearer narrative that doesn’t bob around and require characters to turn on a dime simply because the plot needs them to. The narrative, never really fixing on one main character, is extremely disorienting. Who is the protagonist here? Are we to follow Steven, the lesbian couple, the teenager, the kid? The script never settles on any one of them for long. Out of the cast, Anya Newall’s angsty teen Joey stands out as the most interesting and watchable character. Had LAIR focused mainly on her story, I think it would have been much more digestible.
One of the biggest problems is the character of Steven (Corey Johnson) who gets the most screentime, but is by far the most loathsome character of the bunch. He’s a scam artist. He knowingly plants a cursed artifact in the family’s apartment. He’s luridly watches the lesbians have sex and might even be spying on the teenage daughter. I think the story is supposed to follow some kind of redemption arc for the character, but Steven does so many horrendous things that there is no way I cared for him, even if he does have a change of heart in the latter portion. Corey Johnson has been a recognizable character actor for ages and I don’t know if this is his first lead role or not, but man, does he make it impossible to root for him here.
The dialog is absolutely atrocious—especially in the first third of the film. This is when Steven interacts with everyone in the same sarcastic, unfunny way and firmly establishing him as an unlikable character. I get it that they wanted to make Steven a character with a one liner for everything, but Robert Downy Jr. he is not. And the script calls for all of the characters to be snide and snarky to each other in the exact same crass and unlikable way. So you have everyone cracking wise in the exact same voice and all of it is bad clever-speak dialog that would make Joss Whedon and Kevin Williamson turn several shades of red in shame.
My list of complaints go on and on and I guess when you’re getting to Corey Johnson’s weird double come-over, messed up and over-moussed hair, it’s time to move on to more positive areas. I did think that some of the scenes where Steven witnesses something paranormal going on at the home though his security cams and no one else does were very effective, if not repetitive. There are scenes that work in LAIR. And most of them is where Steven plays the audience reaction to whatever crazy stuff goes on as the creature takes more of a physical form. The way the creature attacks is especially cool too as it strikes fast and deadly, and appears to be sleek and black, yet prickly like a panther with porcupine quills. Had this just been a monster in the house flick, I think it would have worked. But these scenes where Steven watches the events unfold and increase in threat only made me more frustrated. There’s nothing but greed stopping Steven from going over there and helping the family in need, though it appears he is having some kind of inner struggle whether or not to intervene. The problem is that he is right next door and there is no physical barrier keeping Steven from coming over and helping. Sure a crisis of faith works, but Steven’s turn happens way too late in the game and because he could have just stepped out of his office to intervene, it makes the character morally decrepit.
By the time for the admittedly bombastic and gnarly ending where the monster is wreaking havoc on the family, I just didn’t care. In the final reel, the family begins acting with amped up feelings towards each other because of the artifact—a detail that really isn’t introduced until the climax. The story leading up to it felt unfocused and incomprehensible. The conspiracy angle ending gave me the same what the fuck reaction that I got from the ending of TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE: THE NEXT GENERATION. It just feels tacked on and not completely thought out.
LAIR is an overwritten and unnecessarily complex film. It’s oversaturated with clever-speak making it feel completely ingenuine and unfunny. Its plot is aimless, making the whole thing feel overlong. A cool monster can sometimes make a great movie, but when the rest of the film is incomprehensible, it’s doesn’t work. I’ve wasted more time than I should have dissecting this flawed film. I think I did so because the ingredients in LAIR have so much potential, it just needed someone objective onboard saying enough is enough.