Before boxes are unpacked in their new home, newlyweds Tim and Emily, find themselves playing a very creepy game of hide and seek with a vengeful spirit.
It was only a matter of time, friends.
Firstly, I’d like to get something off my chest that has been nagging at me for a year. I didn’t find “The Conjuring” to be anything more than an expertly recycled collection of the same haunted house clichés that had been suffocating the life from the subgenre for decades. From the hideous doll no one in their right minds would own (before you argue, research images of the real Annabelle) to the Warrens showing up to peddle their metaphorical snake oil, James Wan’s film relied on presentation over invention.
It was, however, a gigantic smash hit and welcome jolt of adrenaline to the industry, one whose coattails would most certainly be utilized by cinematic “hop-ons” looking for a free ride to fame. One such example is “Find Me,” an ambitious thriller created on a budget that couldn’t successfully feed the cast and crew of “The Conjuring” for a day. Decisively avoiding the trappings of its medium only to surrender to the worst of them when backed into a corner, this is ultimately a derivative and disappointing mixed bag of a film.
Kicking off the festivities on a familiar note, newlyweds Tim and Emily (Cameron Bender and Kathryn Lyn, both fellow Michiganders) arrive at a quaint farmhouse that had sat abandoned for years and purchased for a song. The new domicile happens to reside a few miles from Emily’s rural hometown, where she’d grown up but hasn’t returned to since childhood. So far, so predictable. I haven’t even gotten around to the music box yet.
Where “Find Me” flourishes as a distinctive voice is in the initial reaction our leads have to the things bumping around in the night. Left home as Tim begins his new career, Emily is immediately spooked by supernatural shenanigans (glass breaking, objects falling, a shadowy female seen only in peripheral) during the unpacking process. When she discovers said music box with the titular message “find me” scrawled on its mirror, she and Tim immediately presume that there must be a cohabitating entity to deal with. Sidestepping the skeptical husband trope is a novel concept, and allowed the piece to dive into the fray without hesitation.
Of course, the white people still don’t leave the house. Believing the spirit to be harmless even after it pulls a succubus routine with Tim, the two allow wisecracking school chum Claire (Rachelle Dimaria) to perform a séance to make contact and ask what it wants. This proves fruitless, and it isn’t until the ladies play detective the following day that clues to the ghost’s identity begin surfacing.
Upon inspection of a crawlspace found in the closet (They didn’t know the house they purchased had a sublevel?), they come across a manila envelope containing old Polaroid pictures of various children from the area. One particular photo depicts Emily at the age of six, appearing frightened. A few quick online clicks and Claire deduces that all are alive and well, leaving them facing another brick wall in the investigation.
That is, until the appearance of the necklaces. Tim uncovers the first half of a broken heart charm when he checks the cellar, Emily the second in a tiny drawer at the front of the music box. Here is where it all comes crashing down. This leads to a revelation concerning Emily’s past that should’ve been so blatantly obvious to her (and to us as well, considering the unsubtle foreshadowing) from the beginning, it’s utterly laughable. Even as she divulges this to her damn husband (How had it never come up before?), she remains dismissive that it’s the cause of the activity. “But, that can’t be it.” She actually utters those words to Tim, who rationally doesn’t agree.
“Find Me” never quite recovers from that absurd misstep, piling on the conventions whilst pursuing a second mystery of the property’s previous owner. I use the term “mystery” loosely, as it’s really more of a futile story progression that we’d figured out in its entirety at the point of Emily’s confession. It manages to get Tim out of the house one more time to leave his terrified wife alone with a vengeful specter, so one could say it at least serves that questionable purpose.
We won’t even delve into the existence of a discussed yet never explored attic (They didn’t know the house they purchased had an attic? I give up.) or the attack on Claire, which is unintentional physical comedy at its finest. The script, written by the two leads and director Andy Palmer, shows flashes of wit early on (the couple’s knowledge of and references to haunted house flicks is refreshing), but abandons its insight in service of jump scares and illogical motivations.
Pity, because the performances are serviceable given the weak characters, and Palmer displays potential talent behind the camera. His voyeuristic approach within the claustrophobic walls of the interior brings a sense of unease to duller moments and increases the creepiness factor of an otherwise innocuous setting. None of this distracts from the meandering story or baffling final discovery, which effectively negates two separate bits of info (possibly three) that preceded.
There are more than a few reasons to commend “Find Me.” Unfortunately, recommending it would make me crazier than a woman who doesn’t believe a past tragedy is directly informing a current paranormal threat. Or, maybe it would just make me a character in a mediocre horror movie.