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Home | Film Review: The Presence (2010)

Film Review: The Presence (2010)


A woman travels to an isolated cabin where she is unknowingly stalked by an obsessive apparition. The arrival of the woman’s boyfriend brings a change in behavior to not only the woman but the presence residing in the home as well. The woman becomes defensively irrational to her boyfriend and the apparition must decide if he wants to intervene or let things fall as they may.


Written and Directed by Tom Provost
Starring: Mira Sorvino, Shane West, Justin Kirk, Tony Curran

A good ghost story is hard to come by these days. The last one I saw had to have been “The Orphanage”. The last one I read was “Heart Shaped Box” by Joe Hill. A good ghost story showcases elements that other types of horror movies prefer to gloss over in favor of in-your-face, bash-you-over –the-head violence. Elements like subtlety, creepiness, pacing, tension, story, etc. Not only does The Presence deliver on all of these elements with artistic finesse, I believe The Presence is the most innovative ghost story I’ve ever seen.

There was nothing about this film I didn’t like. Tom Provost, in his directorial debut, throws down the gauntlet, bringing a film that whispers its story to you rather than screaming it in your ear. While the script is well written and never seems to stumble or fail in perpetuating the story, I particularly enjoyed those moments when there was no dialogue, just beautiful and dramatic shots of characters doing what they do in the tranquil cabin setting in the mountains of Oregon. The blend of editing and cinematography to create a whole environment was masterful and not indicative of a first effort. Tom Provost gives a clinic on storytelling through a lens of a camera. I also applaud him for using that lens, and for the most part only that lens, to tell this ghost story. I saw only one instance of CGI in the whole film which means he did something daring in telling a story without using special effects as a crutch.

The actors too are brilliant in the film. Mira Sorvino (Academy Award Winner for Best Supporting Actress in “Mighty Aphrodite”) does a fantastic and believable job as the Woman, a character with a substantial amount of depth even before the influence of the presence. Sorvino is able to be that girl who on the surface has it all under control but just beneath that surface, is barely containing a volatile combination of insecurity, uncertainty and fear; a combination that can be heated up to a boiling point with the correct amount of heat. Shane West (“A Walk to Remember”) did remarkably well as the apparition, especially considering he had all of two words spoken in the entire film. This aspect of the film is what I was referring to when I spoke earlier of scenes lacking dialogue. West’s portrayal of the mysterious ghost was effective because the ghost’s presence in the cabin was ambiguous. His history isn’t ever developed as more than a newspaper clipping which is fine because, just as West portrays his character, it doesn’t matter why he’s there, just that he is. Justin Kirk (“Weeds”) does an incredibly convincing job as the Man, a character so in love with the Woman that he takes an inordinate amount of verbal and mental abuse from her. His character is either the most patient man ever to have existed or he is the most stupid. Either way, his love for her is real and Kirk makes it seem plausible that a man would go through what he goes through for the love of his woman.

The Presence is a movie I was delighted to watch. As much as adore cheesy horror movies and proudly tout the fact I’m a gore-hound, I also like to watch movies with style and substance. I enjoy films with meaning and story. The Presence had all of those things and still managed to make me jump out of my seat once or twice. I can’t recommend this film highly enough…to people who are capable of thinking past their noses.

The Presence is now available for rental thru Redbox


  1. I love horror films and I really love shane west but this has got to be the most boring movie ever and its well lets just say the dumbest movie I have ever seen sorry but thats how I feel

  2. this is the most boring movie ever it is dumb and not at all interesting or frightening

  3. This was one of the worst films I’ve ever seen. There was NO plot at all, no character development. Funny how the reviewer forgot to mention that a bad demon spirit comes out of nowhere and tries to get the benign ghost to be a bad ghost/demon.

    And, why? nothing is answered (and, yes, I caught THE WOMAN’s comments under the house). At that point, I wish the ghost would have agreed because that would have added some excitement to this bore of a movie.

    The other thing was the ending — which tried to be ambiguous but was just annoying. The hooded creature which was in the other man’s boat earlier was likely the bad demon ghost afterall. So, as the movie closes we’re now supposed to be wondering if the good guys really ahve a happy ending afterall.

    Major fail.

    Sometimes I wonder why actors take certain roles. . . often the movie is bad but I can understand that the script may have looked good– on paper, the story may work, but the execution fails.

    With this movie, though, I can’t even imagine HOW it looked good on paper. It was THAT BAD.

  4. this movieeee sucks!!!!!

  5. F&ck this movie it was a piece of sh*t out of red box also I took an arrow to the knee

  6. I guess I’m the only one that enjoyed the movie and understood it.. We all have a good and bad side..and it’s up to you to decide if you should listen to those evil whispers which are our insecure and paranoid thoughts …The second presence was no ghost but a malicious demon, and the other presence that’s always with boatman is a guardian who informed the old man that something was not right on the island the first time and the second time, that’s why he came back.
    To sum it up, when there are forces of evil working against you, there is always a higher power protecting you and giving you signs… You just have see them!

    • That was a good way to put it. I gathered in the middle that the man watching her was her father or that escaped convict that drowned. I didn’t understand the gaurdian angel who took him to the light. I guess you were able to connect the dots better.

    • I am so happy you finally answered this for me

    • I agree with everything.
      The only doubt I had was about the presence in the boat. Thanks for clearing that up for me.
      And yes, it IS a different kind of scary movie. I liked it

    • I think you got everything correct except I would say that the ” guardian ” is actually an angel. Only a angel could defeat a demon. Also you never mentioned what you thought of the ghost in the house..you never explained him. He COULD have been the father (no memories of his past) or just a random person..I still dont get that. However, I think that in the end, the ghosts ‘Im sorry” meant more than any of us could see. Maybe he got his memories back at the very end and was finally there to protect his child instead of hurt her. I think the possibility that it was her father are great but it could have also just been a random person. I think other than this..what you said was very on point. I also happen to believe this is EXACTLY way occurs in real life..but thats for another blog. TY.

  7. Its such as you learn my mind! You seem to understand a lot approximately this, such as you wrote the book in it or something. I think that you just could do with some p.c. to drive the message house a little bit, however instead of that, this is fantastic blog. A great read. I will definitely be back.

  8. I saw this:
    “I guess I’m the only one that enjoyed the movie and understood it..”

    Do you think other people are stupid? This movie wasn’t difficult to understand. This movie was written with the idea of good and evil, with a major deus ex machina at the end to tie up a crappy plot.

    The symbolism, dialogue, and acting was all incredibly heavy-handed. The music blasted at random times with the finesse of an amputee trying to swim and NOTHING was scary.

    This was a sh*t movie from start to finish. Seriously, every facial expression the evil ghost made looked like he was jizzing on the resident ghost. He’d whisper in his ear and then “dun dun dun” ‘s would blast from the music, just reminding us that the movie means serious business.

    NO innovation. The movie relies on tried and true garbage methods (shuffling, scarred past, cuts to some guy standing staring straight ahead) to tell the story instead of explaining anything, which basically means the audience suspending disbelief for every scene because “that’s how it’s done” in the horror movie genre.

    I seriously thought this movie was a comedy. Talk about total crap.

    • Ezzme, I love what you said. I loved the movie too. I feel a bit sad for the folks who didn’t get this movie. Makes me wonder how they face their own lives and how they perceive good and evil in the world. This movie gave me goosebumps and inspired me at the same time. If you didn’t walk away from this film with something positive, it must be like always seeing the glass half empty. This movie will be a movie that stays with me and making me wonder how close to the truth it really is. And Jeremy, calm down. We are all entitled to our opinion and would appreciate not being insulted. From your tone, you clearly missed the point of this film. Or maybe you are right on target with the darker side in all of us.

  9. I thought it MOST UNUSUAL and agree with Ezzme ! I fell asleep during the first half of the movie because it was late, I was tired and made the mistake of trying to watch in bed. It fascinated the hell out of me, but my tired aching body needed to sleep. When I woke up the next morning, I was in a OCD panic! I forgot the title, as well as the actress’ name (who I know well) so I couldn’t look up the movie, until I asked for help on Help Me, Ask Me site. This is the best place to get help from other movie lovers to identify movies. What a wonderful place this is! Thanks to Quinn F, a phenomenal person who has the ability to name just about any movie ever made – I have this Thursday (2/28/13) to look forward to watching this movie again and also have set it to record (just in case). Finally found a community of movie lovers to share with.

  10. Inside Observer

    I thought it was a great movie. FINALLY! a director who doesn’t have to show blood and guts raining down from the skies non-stop for two hours, with the music taking ten years off your hearing. Too bad other viewers are too narcissistic to accept that some of us like scary movies, and that it’s okay, just like other folk like true blood-and-guts-horror, which is okay too. Doesn’t make our choice stupid any more than theirs does. If you’re expecting to see decapitations, amputations, and ritual disembowelment, this movie is not for you. If you just want to sit on the edge of your seat and have to think through the plot a bit, and come to your own conclusions on a few things, you’ll love it.

    • I, too, enjoyed it. I interpreted the ghost to be her father in his youth. He was comfortable in the cabin before she arrived. He was distantly watching over her until he was able to see that she was going to lose her lover and would feel deep despair. I think he could not handle her suffering any longer and that is why his only words were an apology to her. I think he had to choose his path in the afterlife and he was tempted heavily by the evil spirit. In helping to save The Man, and defying the evil spirit, he found redemption.

      I don’t consider others “stupid” but we are all looking for different things. I found what I was looking for in this film to some degree. It moved very slowly and there wasn’t as much explanation as I like, but it was still enjoyable.

      • r u sure? I don`t believe him to be her father. Why the paper clipping she finds then?
        I thought that he drowned nearby and he was stuck near the place he died… that is, her house.
        Well, that is what I believe.

  11. This movie was great! Would watch again!

  12. Did anyone watch the same film I did?
    SPOILERS (For the dumb):
    The ghost in the house was her father, who abused her when she was a child. Hence her fear of relationships, and the demon/devil character saying, “You just wanted her all for yourself,” as well as repeatedly whispering in her ear about the fiance doing the same things to her potential children as were done to her by her father. Clear. As. Day.
    The guardian (angel?) character at the end only took the father into the light after he 1.) refused the devil character’s offer and refused to kill the fiance, 2.) stood in front of his daughter to protect her from a perceived threat, and 3.) asked her forgiveness.

    Not 100% clear what the presence in the hoodie on the boat was, but given the vibe I think the directorial intent was to show another demonic evil presence whispering in the boatman’s ear, indicating the fight against darkness is neverending. A little heavyhanded with the morality, but interesting perspective from the filmwriter that even abusive dads who cause ongoing trauma for their adult children deserve entrance into the light.

    • One comment..i think its very possible that the ghost did not KNOW he was her father until the very end. If he reverted back to when he was younger..this would also be BEFORE he did any damage to his daughter or had a daughter in general. I think his memories came back to him at the very end, hence the scream. At that time, he knew exactly what he needed to say and DO vs it being a tormenting decision before. I dont think the people are DUMB for not understanding..i just think that some people have a deeper understanding then others about things of this nature. The writer, in my opinion was very true to what DOES go on in this world and the next…however without that type of understanding..who cold fully understand a film such as this. Its too deep for most of us..lol but gratefully, i found it a great movie to watch more so the 2nd and 3rd time around.

  13. a movie is supposed to be more than just gorefest and lots of blood..i agree..and this movie is surely a thinking man’s movie..but i believe,a horror movie should be…well..scary…it should make me feel uncomfortable,make me look back to see if anyone’s there…instead,this one ends up being just an artsy movie for people who have a lot of time to ponder.and ponder…

  14. Dumb is not the correct word – the correct word is ignorance. Most people in today’s society go to a movie to relax or be entertained. They need Godzilla and Transformer movies where their brains don’t have to think or use imagination to ponder the meanings behind a director or screenplay writer’s concept. So in defense of the ignorant of course they won’t “get” this movie because they it’s not spelled out to them clearly and concisely. Jeremy, I thought the denouement was handled just fine. Again if imagination is something you google on your Iphone for clarification then this movie was not for you. I hear you can see Godzilla in 3D – better get your special glasses if you want to touch the scary monster.

  15. What did you do?

    He better be dead!!

    LOL Most retarded movie I’ve ever seen. I’m with Jeremy. I thought it was a comedy. We were cracking up through the whole ending.

  16. I give this movie two stars. Anyone who’s stayed at a cabin with no electricity and spiders in the outhouse can appreciate it. I also liked the hushed tone in the beginning, how it went through the first 20 minutes or so with almost no dialogue. When Justin Kirk showed up I shared the ghost’s feeling that this was an intrusion. Then the bad ghost–who the heck’s this guy and when will he shut up? (Motormouths aren’t scary, just annoying.) And the last-minute entry of the Magical Negro (a term popularized by Spike Lee, the condescending archetype of the wise servant who comes to the aid of white protagonists) drove it off the cliff. The movie lost its intrigue when it went outside the two characters. If it stuck to its initial format as a minimalist, experimental film, they might have had something.
    Also I don’t buy that the ghost was the abusive father. What was the point of the newspaper clipping about the drowned convict, then? When the bad ghost whispered, “You just wanted her all for yourself,” yeah, obviously the good ghost did, when it was the him and her alone in the house. When the bad ghost whispers in her ear about the fiance abusing their children, he’s just playing on her fears. The whole business about her being abused as a kid was an unnecessary distraction and a case of over-writing in order to give the story fake depth.
    It was never explained why birds hit the outhouse every time someone used it. I expected Justin Kirk to yell, “Hey Hitchcock, let me take a dump in peace!” What happened to Kirk underneath the house was left hanging too; did the bad ghost beat him up?

  17. I think it’s interesting that so many people think the 1st ghost was her father. Originally, I thought it was the convict, but if the 1st ghost was her father, then most likely the 2nd evil ghost was the convict. While I thought it was weird for the guardian angel to appear and a strain on my suspension of disbelief, I can’t for the life of me figure out why so many people think the hooded figure in the boat was an evil spirit. The old man said he had a feeling all day that something was wrong. It seems to me that was another guardian angel or at least a good spirit telling him to go check on her.


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