The abbreviation B&B commonly stands for “bed and breakfast,” but not here. Welcome to the world of travel accommodations known as “bait and…boy we should’ve stayed somewhere else.” Adam Ethan Crow’s Lair flashes glimpses of stylistic paranormal horror amidst a fascinating premise.
Lair jumps out of the gate when former paranormal investigator Ben Dollarhyde (Oded Fehr) brutally attacks and murders his wife and son. Believing he fell under possession due to his former interactions with the supernatural, he enlists the help of his former partner Steven Caramore (Corey Johnson) to find definite proof that such a thing could happen. Steven believes that supernatural-laden artifacts they had collected over the years may be harboring an actual demon. Motivated by money first and jailbreaking his friend second, Steven decides to test each artifact on an unsuspecting young family of vacationers renting his London property.
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“Lair flashes glimpses of stylistic paranormal horror amidst a fascinating premise.“
Setting a paranormal trap, complete with numerous hidden cameras, Steven watches the footage after deploying each relic one after another. It doesn’t take long for the family to start lashing out at each other under the stress of Steven‘s suspect behavior, but this proves to be the least of their worries. Steven finds out that all those years of what he thought was grifting may have unearthed something very real and very evil.
Lair proposes an alluring plot that caught my attention from the onset. A paranormal investigator, who fully acknowledges his work was fully fabricated for money, decides to use an innocent family as bait to prove if demons really do exist. I love it! Corey Johnson masters the part of a slime-ball, wise cracking grifter who can’t foresee what he’s getting himself into. Johnson’s one-liners and his arrogant notion that, if demons exist, he can simply “make some scratch” from it without repercussions, are quite entertaining.
Director and writer Adam Ethan Crow delivers early on with some sick stylistic horror. The opening credits reek of Se7en, a pleasant coincidence considering the religious parallels. Atmosphere is king in horror, and Lair accomplishes this by dropping it’s audience into a brooding London apartment to the tune of a spine-tingling score composed by Mario Grigorov and Steven Schwalbe, another highlight of Lair. Brutal, gory deaths litter the film, with the use of some gnarly practical effects.
As strong as Lair starts, it becomes a little sluggish after the first demon attack on the vacationing family, which includes the divorced Maria (Aislinn De’Ath), her daughters Joey (Anya Newall) and Lilith, and her new partner Carly (Alana Wallace). Carly and Maria clash on multiple occasions on how to handle the teenage Joey‘s actions within the city, which include flirting with the locals and smoking the occasional joint. While I understand the clearly intended correlation of demons and people’s lives going to hell in a handbasket, much of their dialogue feels inorganic, despite strong performances from the entire group. Steven‘s paranormal experiment takes a backseat to the domestic family troubles, whereas the squabbling should have accented the unethical investigation.
“Brutal, gory deaths litter the film, with the use of some gnarly practical effects.”
This leads to the final minutes of Lair. Director and writer Adam Ethan Crow takes the film’s climax in a bold direction that just doesn’t quite land like it should. The paranormal attacks escalate slowly to the point where we expect the proverbial sh*t hit to hit the fan, when the timeline jumps past the big demon finale to the resulting crime scene. We then see what happened via Steven‘s hidden camera footage. Though it’s an interesting idea, the results are frustrating and clunky, severely dampening the tension Lair spent the first half of the runtime building. Allowing the events to unfold linearly may have been predictable, but would’ve likely yielded better results.
Despite its second half stumble, Lair brings a satisfying amount of atmospheric horror and solid performances to the table. And let’s be clear, there’s a lesson to be learned within the 96 minute runtime – Do. Not. Pimp. Out. Demons.
You can see Lair on VOD November 9th, 2021. Once you do, let us know what you think on Twitter, Reddit, Facebook, and in the official Nightmare on Film Street Discord. Not a social media fan? Get more horror delivered straight to your inbox by joining the Neighbourhood Watch Newsletter. And for all the best horror content online, keep lurking at Nightmare on Film Street.