“Mid-Century” is a fantasy horror mystery film about a husband and wife’s weekend in a mid-century modern vacation rental that turns deadly when the husband discovers the owner is a psychopath with a backyard of buried secrets.
The film, written by Mike Stern and directed by Sonja O’Hara, starts with a lot of promise, drawing the audience into a world where architectural intrigue and a seemingly perfect neighbourhood serve as the backdrop for a suspenseful tale. However, as the story unfolds, it takes an inexplicable supernatural turn, leaving viewers bewildered and struggling to make sense of the narrative.
The story starts in the 70s or 80s when we are introduced to the designer and owner of the home, Fredrick Banner (played by Stephen Lang). He cuts a sinister character as he’s seen spying on the family that lives in the house. He appears to covet all that the man owns, even his wife. There is a murder, and the premise is set for a home with strange secrets.
The story fasts to the present day, where a couple, Tom (played by Shane West) and Alice played by (Chelsea Gilligan), move into the same home. They are on the cusps of a fresh start in their lives. Alice, a medical practitioner, left her old job when a creepy colleague harassed her, whilst Tom, an architect, appears to have landed a potentially life-changing gig. But they soon realize there is something strange about the rental property and its past.
One of the film’s notable strengths is its impressive cast list, with Shane West and Stephen Lang in critical roles. While their performances could be better, they don’t quite reach the high standards we’ve seen from these talented actors in their previous work. Their characters need more depth and fail to engage the audience fully.
The film introduces supernatural elements that add to the mystery, but disappointingly, it needs to take the time to explain or clarify them adequately. This lack of explanation leaves a glaring gap in the plot, making it difficult for viewers to immerse themselves in the story entirely. The film assumes that the audience will accept these supernatural occurrences without question, which ultimately feels like a missed opportunity to build a more robust and engaging narrative.
Moreover, the depiction of supernatural events is a significant letdown. Ghosts, a central element in the story, cast shadows and are seemingly able to interact with both objects and people. However, the other characters’ reactions are puzzling, as they act as if they can’t see or feel the presence of these supernatural entities. This inconsistency in the film’s portrayal of the bizarre world detracts from the overall experience. It is hard to overlook this, considering that several movies have better executed similar scenarios with the help of well-done VFX or creative art direction.
The plot of “Mid-Century” contains amateurishly written elements that strain the audience’s suspension of disbelief. In several situations that should naturally evoke urgency and logical responses, the characters inexplicably fail to act accordingly. There are moments when common sense dictates that they should call the police or take swift action, but instead, they seem to plod along without a sense of urgency. This lack of realism in character behaviour undermines the film’s ability to build tension effectively.
As the film steadily progresses, it keeps the same tone and pacing, aided by the decent choice of sound score. You are immediately certain things will not end well for Tom and Alice, and you are just along for the ride to see how it happens. But that build-up takes a sudden turn during the film’s third act, introducing characters and scenarios that are difficult to understand immediately. There are some points that I had to ask myself if I was watching the same film.
“Mid-Century” feels like a missed opportunity. It presents a brilliant premise with the potential for a captivating narrative but needs to improve in its development and execution. I will score this film 5/10.
The confusion in the third act, as the story takes a supernatural turn, leaves viewers disconnected from the plot. The promising cast doesn’t deliver their best performances, and the poorly explained supernatural elements further complicate the narrative.