Review: ‘Lair,’ starring Corey Johnson, Alexandra Gilbreath, Aislinn De’Ath, Alana Wallace, Anya Newall, Kashif O’Connor and Lara Mount

January 16, 2022

by Carla Hay

Corey Johnson in “Lair” (Photo by Laura Radford/1091 Pictures)

“Lair”

Directed by Adam Ethan Crow

Culture Representation: Taking place in London, the horror film “Lair” features a predominantly white cast of characters (with a few black people) representing the middle-class and working-class.

Culture Clash: A mysterious doll seems to wreak havoc on whichever place the doll is kept.

Culture Audience: “Lair” will appeal mainly to people who don’t mind watching rambling and poorly made horror movies that aren’t very scary.

Anya Newall and Lara Mount in “Lair” (Photo by Laura Radford/1091 Pictures)

“Lair” is a disjointed mess of a horror film that takes too long to get to anything that could be described as “scary.” The movie has a lot of scenes that don’t fit well with the story. Instead of ramping up the suspense, the movie struggles to hold viewer interest because it gets sidetracked with dull scenes. And the movie’s main character is stupid and obnoxious.

Written and directed by Adam Ethan Crow, “Lair” (which takes place in London) begins with a scene of a boy named Sean Dollarhyde (played by Rauri Kusumakar) hiding in a closet while his mother Carol Dollarhyde (played by Tara Dowd) sits on the stairs and screams. There’s some horrible editing where Sean appears to be locked in a room, and then the scene abruptly cuts to him in the hallway, where he sees his mother being dropped by someone from the second floor onto the first floor. Just as Sean tries to escape out the front door, a man’s hand grabs him from behind and pulls Sean back into the house.

Viewers soon find out that Sean and Carol were murdered by Carol’s husband/Sean’s father Ben Dollarhyde (played by Oded Fehr), who is now sitting in a jail cell for these murders as he awaits his trial, since he plans to plead not guilty. Ben insists that he didn’t commit the murders, but that something, possibly an evil spirit, possessed him. While in jail, Ben gets a visit from Steven Caramore (played by Corey Johnson), Ben’s former partner in a paranormal hunting business that was really a con game. Ben and Steven are both American.

Steven is upset because of Ben’s arrest, Steven has lost his work partner, who now thinks that demons and evil spirits are real. Steven yells at Ben, “We never believed that bullshit!” Ben has undergone a religious transformation and replies by quoting a line from the Bible: “I was blind but now I see.” Steven is an atheist and calls the Bible a “comic book.”

Ben then starts to ramble: “I could taste the soul from her open veins in the back of my mouth.” He also claims that whatever possessed him, “I fought it, whatever it was … I tried to stop her suffering … I slaughtered my son. You brought that thing into my house!”

Ben’s defense attorney Wendy Coulson (played by Alexandra Gilbreath) wants to use demonic possession as a defense in Ben’s case. Steven thinks it’s a crazy defense. Steven tells Wendy, “Lady, your case has more holes in it than a block of Swiss cheese at a hooker convention.” Get used to awful dialogue like this in “Lair,” because the movie is full of it.

Needless to say, Steven and Wendy have an intense dislike for each other. Wendy says to Steven: “I can’t stand the sight of you.” Steven says to Wendy: “You must go to the gym a lot to be lugging around the grudge that you’re carrying for me.” If “Lair” weren’t a horror movie, this silly banter would look like a set-up in a cheesy romantic comedy.

Now that Steven and Ben’s sham paranormal hunting business has gone kaput, Steven has to find a new way to make money. A muscular Haitian man named Ola (played by Kashif O’Connor) has worked with Steven for the past 10 years in the paranormal hunting business. Ola seems to have the role of carrying out physical tasks that Steven can’t handle. Steven tells Ola that he wants to keep Ola as an employee in some capacity.

To get some quick money, Steven decides to rent an apartment that he inherited from his late father. Steven wants to operate the apartment like an Airbnb place, by renting to visitors who will be staying temporarily. Steven ends up renting the apartment to four British travelers who are tourists in London: queer couple Maria “Ria” Engles (played by Aislinn De’Ath) and Carly Cortes (played Alana Wallace), who are on this trip with Maria’s two children: 16-year-old daughter Joey “Jo” Engles (played by Anya Newall) and Lilith “Lilly” Engles (played by Lara Mount), who’s about 7 or 8 years old.

Upon arrival, Lilly finds a creepy girl doll in her room. Lilly names the doll Amy. It should come as no surprise to viewers that this doll has a sinister history. It’s called the Devil Doll, and legend has it that it was owned by a young woman who murdered all of her housemates. There’s also a black figurine of the Virgin Mary/Madonna that also plays a role in the story.

You’d think that “Lair” would then explore more of this Devil Doll history. Instead, the movie goes off on a long and boring tangent that has lowlife Steven spying on his new tenants by a hidden camera set-up that he controls from a secret room in the apartment. Steven wants to see if he can catch any paranormal activities on camera. But he really just acts like a Peeping Tom because he enjoys watching Maria and Carly have sex.

“Lair,” which is Crow’s feature-film debut, also wastes a lot of time with relationship drama between Maria and Carly, who haven’t been dating each other for very long. Maria’s kids are having a hard time accepting Carly as part of the family. Not much is said about the father of Maria’s kids except that it’s implied that Maria broke up with him because she fell in love with Carly.

“Lair” takes such a long time to get to any real horror (it doesn’t happen until the last 20 minutes of this 96-minute film), but even then, everything in the horror scenes is hopelessly cliché and not very frightening at all. With “The Conjuring” and “Annabelle” movies existing in the world, another horror movie about a demonic doll really has to do something clever and original, but “Lair” comes up short.

The performances from the cast members are either mediocre or awful. It doesn’t help that Steven, who’s supposed to be the central character, is relentlessly annoying. The movie also badly mishandles the subplot about Ben and his attorney Wendy. It’s a part of the story that’s forgotten for most of the movie, and then rushed back in toward the end. Unfortunately, there’s nothing special about “Lair,” which is just one in a long list of subpar horror movies that keep getting churned out by filmmakers who can’t come up with anything unique in a horror story.

1091 Pictures released “Lair” on digital and VOD on November 9, 2021.

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