“Knife Edge” sees the return to the horror genre of director Anthony Hickox, who back in the late 1980s and early 1990s turned out a string of popular, offbeat favourites including “Waxwork”, its sequel “Lost in Time”, and “Sundown: the Vampire in Retreat”, the latter two featuring the legendary Bruce Campbell. Although Hickox did have a stab at the relatively big time with “Hellraiser: Hell on Earth”, since then he had stuck mainly to television affairs and standard action films, such as the Eddie Griffin vehicle “Blast” and Steven Segal’s “Submerged”. With his being one of the more creative genre directors, who always managed to bring a certain sense of ghoulish fun to his productions, fans should certainly be glad to see him coming back to the fold, and although “Knife Edge” is not a particularly great film by his standards, it is still a cut above the usual direct to DVD drudgery.
The plot follows a Wall Street stockbroker called Emma (British actress Natalie Press, recently in the IRA thriller “Fifty Dead Men Walking”) who moves back to England after her French husband Henri (Matthieu Boujenah) buys a large old mansion house in the country. All seems to be going well, until Emma is left alone in the house, and starts experiencing strange and threatening visions, while her young son Thomas finds himself a creepy doll playmate. Meanwhile, Henri’s business runs into financial trouble, putting extra strain on the family, and although Emma’s brother Andrew (Lorcan O’Toole) and old family friend Charles (familiar television actor Hugh Bonneville) offer to help, they may have their own more sinister motivations.
As can probably be guessed from the above, “Knife Edge” (a daft title that has very little to do with the film itself) is a real mishmash of very familiar horror and suspense motifs, packing in an old fashioned haunting, a house with a mysterious past, creepy toys, psychic powers, moving trees, scheming relatives, a courtroom battle, and more. While Hickox generally manages to keep things together, and the film is certainly not dull, it does frequently loose its focus, and as a result is never quite as engaging as it could have been. There are a number of predictable twists along the way, though few genre-savvy viewers will have much difficulty in picking out the eventual villain from the first frame – not least due to a few obvious twitchy glances and unsubtle close up shots of narrowed eyes. Still, while the characters are bland, there is a reasonable amount of tension, though oddly enough this comes more from the film’s more grounded elements, such as Henri’s money troubles and the breakdown of the marriage, rather than the supernatural aspects, many of which tend to drift in and out of the plot on a whim. Once all the cards are on the crowded table, the final act is amusingly daft and overwrought, and this does help to finish things off with some energy.
Hickox has always been a visually creative director, and although more restrained here than he has been in the past, he still manages some interesting flourishes. The film in general is a handsome affair, making good use of the picturesque English countryside and the stately home, with camera angles lifted from “The Haunting” helping to make for some creepy shots. The film is quite atmospheric, with the house being surrounded by overrun gardens, misty woods and the like, and this gives it a pleasantly old fashioned feel that helps it to stand out from the crowd somewhat. This is offset with a few flashes of modern gore, mainly through Emma’s visions, and though these are certainly not enough to excite viewers looking for anything bloody, they do add a vague visceral touch.
As a result, “Knife Edge” is entertaining enough in its own way, without ever really doing anything more than pushing the usual right buttons in pretty much the right places. Although Hickox is certainly capable of something far more imaginative, the film makes for solid genre viewing without being particularly memorable or praiseworthy.
Anthony Hickox (director) / Fiona Combe, Anthony Hickox, Robb Squire (screenplay)
CAST: Joan Plowright … Marjorie
Tamsin Egerton … Flora
Hugh Bonneville … Charles Pollock
Natalie Press … Emma
Jamie Harris … Derek
Lorcan O’Toole … Andrew
Mark Holden … Alfred