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Review: Stephen Durham’s Abbey Grace (2016)

abbey-grace-key-art-finalI’m glad that Uncork’d Entertainment is releasing Abbey Grace on VOD starting November 8, 2016. Winter doesn’t start until the end of December, and Abbey Grace strikes me as a great Fall movie. That atmosphere in this movie perfectly captures the atmosphere around us right now. It vividly paints the picture of an earthy, homey movie and I felt like I was able to smell the scents and feel the moisture in the air during my viewing. It was an interesting experience, feeling like the movie was taking place around me at that very moment, but there was something else I loved about it more, something that may not have been done on purpose. Abbey Grace felt like an old school horror movie, a title we’d see playing on Chiller or AMC during a pre-Halloween marathon. Not that the homages are full fledged and important to the overall plot, but I definitely picked up on nods to A Nightmare on Elm Street, Cujo, The Omen and Poltergeist. It all just worked.

The mayhem starts when Stacey (Debbie Sheridan) returns to her childhood home to help her brother, Ben (Jacob Hobbs) with the last wishes of their recently deceased mother. Ben is unable to handle these duties by himself due to the fact that has a strong case of obsessive compulsive disorder and is extremely agoraphobic. This has caused him to remain inside the house for the last 23 years, but something has stirred and awoken right under his very nose. Strange things start happening around the house – doors closing on their own, mysterious apparitions appearing on camera, animal attacks, and old toys popping up on their own – and it all started when Stacey and Ben’s mom died and a wooden box was found in the back yard. What does the box have to do with the strange happenings on the property and how will the siblings stop an evil force that’s older and stronger than they are?

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Written, directed and produced by Stephen Durham (Bloodlines, Death Factory) with co-writer and co-producer David Dittlinger, Abbey Grace also features appearances by Amber Gallaway, Semi Anthony, Maggie McNabb, Jamie Hickman, Kirbi Mason and Roach the Dog. Abbey Grace starts with one of the best openings for a horror film that I’ve ever seen. It involves a pair of scissors and finger painting and I’ll leave it at that. So, not only does this feel very in season right now but it also has an immediate hook that’s going to keep you around for another couple of minutes. I think that’s why I was entertained for the majority of my viewing – the film has a lot of bait and hooks. Stephen and David must have known they didn’t have the most shocking or aggressive title on their hands and strategically placed new elements, new attacks, new homages and new little ghost girl shots about every seven minutes to keep the story interesting, rich and scary. There’s a whole lot of talking, a whole lot of mystery solving and a whole lot of character development – all integral parts of a fleshed out story – but the elements of horror are added in at just the right moment to keep you tuned in. I mean, kids can be harsh… but you’ve never seen a pissed off little girl like this since The Ring!

The second (or third?) biggest thing I enjoyed about Abbey Grace was the casting, which was handled by the film’s female lead Debbie Sheridan. Debbie proves to be a multi-talented asset to this industry and I have to say she gave me Laurie Holden vibes both in looks and in character. Amber Gallway, with all due respect, gave Abbey Grace that little dose of sex appeal that it needed. She’s a little fire cracker! I have to give the most recognition to Jacob Hobbs. To play a character with so many underlying issues and struggles must have been a real challenge. He managed to play the part with a tremendous amount of realism and respect, even though I imagine taking on that burden was emotional taxing. It’s the sign of a true actor and Hobbs gives an award winning performance here. Well done by the main three, all of the leads were fantastic. And I can’t forget to mention Roach the Dog because who doesn’t like animals? Spoiler Alert: I’m glad that Duke survives the movie and I nearly cried alongside Stacey when he returned to normal. I would have failed this movie if the dog died… I’m serious.

Abbey Grace is kind of a mix between The Grudge and Pet Semetary. A cool autumn vibe mixed with traditional horror elements and a fresh faced cast eager to give capable performances. The camera work was great, too. If you like horror stories that are rich in store and mystique, then Abbey Grace is the title for you. It’s not a gore fest and it’s not stocked with jump scares and nudity, but it does have a chase scene and final battle that lasts a good twenty minutes. Definitely worth the payoff for that alone. So, go get a nice warm blanket, your favorite pumpkin flavored items, and enjoy Abbey Grace this Fall before we switch over to winter horror. It’s got a lot more than meets the eye. Final Score: 7 out of 10.

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Written by Michael Therkelsen

(Senior Editor)