I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House

I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House
Directed by Osgood Perkins
Produced by
  • Rob Paris
  • Robert Menzies
Written by Osgood Perkins
Music by Elvis Perkins
Cinematography Julie Kirkwood
Edited by Brian Ufberg
  • Netflix
  • Paris Film
  • Zed Filmworks
  • Go Insane Films
Distributed by Netflix
Release dates
  • September 10, 2016 (2016-09-10) (TIFF)
  • October 28, 2016 (2016-10-28) (Worldwide)
Running time
87 minutes
Language English

I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House is a 2016 American-Canadian horror film written and directed by Osgood Perkins. It stars Ruth Wilson as a live-in nurse who suspects her elderly employer's house may be haunted. It premiered at the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival and was released worldwide on Netflix on October 28. This is the first film to feature Paula Prentiss in 9 years.


Retired horror author Iris Blum (Paula Prentiss) suffers from dementia and lives in a remote New England house built in the early 19th century. Blum's estate manager Mr. Waxcap (Bob Balaban) hires live-in nurse Lily Saylor (Ruth Wilson) to care for her. In a voice over, Lily explains that she just turned 28 years old, and that she will never reach 29 years old. Lily declares that a house with a death in it can never be bought or sold, it can only be "borrowed" from its ghosts.

Lily begins to experience strange events. On her first night in the house, the telephone is wrenched out of her hands by an unseen force. A spot of black mold appears on a section of wall and slowly grows as the months pass. Blum only calls Lily "Polly," never using her real name. Mr. Waxcap explains that Polly Parsons is the protagonist of Blum's most popular novel, The Lady in the Walls. Lily presses him about how the novel ends, but he says she must read it herself. Lily responds that she is easily scared, and cannot bring herself to read it. Later, Lily opens a copy of the book in Blum's study, and it has a dried lily pressed between the pages. Steeling herself to read it, Lily learns the novel's main conceit: that Blum communicated with the long-dead Polly, and is retelling Polly's story. Lily puts the book down after a few pages, too frightened to continue. While rinsing berries at the kitchen sink, black mold spots cover Lily's hands and arms, then her arms bloat and turn sickly gray as if they are rotting, but a second later she looks down again and everything is normal. She glimpses a figure dressed in white in the reflection on a TV screen, but no one is there when she turns around.

Discovering a moldy box labeled "Polly," Lily reads Blum's handwritten notes for the novel, and she comes to believe that Blum's conceit may be more than a fictional device; it may be based on an actual murder committed in the house. In a flashback, Polly (Lucy Boynton) is a bride, and a man, presumably her groom, kills her with a hammer in front of a part of the wall that has been stripped of its boards - the same section where mold is growing in the present. The man then hammers those boards in place while covered in blood, hiding Polly's body in the walls. Blum confronts Lily, believing her to be Polly, telling her that beauty never lasts and that she's going to rot and "fall apart like flowers".

On the final night of Lily's life, she descends the stairs to investigate a knocking sound, finds the wall boards piled beside the re-opened old burial place in the wall, sees Polly's ghost, and dies, overcome by terror. Since Blum never receives visitors and no longer has a nurse, she too dies.

Later, Mr. Waxcap finds the corpses and we see a new family move into the house who are seemingly unaware of all the ghosts they are "borrowing it from."



Writer-director Osgood Perkins originally intended for the story to be about the daughter of a male horror novelist, but he said that "one day, it just changed".[2] Casting became easier once the film was financed; Perkins cited Wilson's talent and excitement for the project as two of the reasons she was chosen to play Lily. Prentiss – a family friend whose husband had performed with Perkins' father, Anthony Perkins – was Perkins' only choice to play Iris.[2]


I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 10, 2016.[1] It debuted on Netflix on October 28.[2]


Rotten Tomatoes, a review aggregator, reports that 64% of nine surveyed critics gave the film a positive review; the average rating is 4.3/10.[3] Dennis Harvey of Variety wrote that the film's atmosphere can not overcome its minimalist and familiar writing.[4] Stephen Dalton of The Hollywood Reporter called it "classy vintage horror with a literary flavor" and compared it to the works of David Lynch, Stanley Kubrick, and Roman Polanski.[5] April Wolfe of The Village Voice described it as "the most atmospherically faithful adaptation ever of a Shirley Jackson book that never existed" and concluded that the film was "the very best of gothic horror."[6] In rating it 2/5 stars, Nigel M. Smith of The Guardian wrote, "Osgood Perkins layers on the dread in his haunted house thriller. But as it becomes clear that there's no worthwhile story, the scares dissipate fast."[7] A. A. Dowd of The A.V. Club called it a creepy, slow burn drama that works despite its lack of a conventional payoff.[8]


External links

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