Movie Review: Add the right “artifacts,” any home can become evil’s “Lair”

A cheerfully amoral Hollywood “ghost hunter” huckster baits an AirBnB flat with “evil” artifacts and monitors the attacks on the guests in via hidden cameras in “Lair,” a stumbling but sometimes chilling thriller set in London.

But it’s not what you think.

Well, sleazeball “Dr.” Caramore (Corey Johnson) says he’s doing it to help the legal defense of a friend and colleague (Oded Fehr) in prison for clubbing his wife and child to death with such an artifact. It’s just that as the creep show begins and the first blood is spilled, there’s no way anything he does seems legal, moral or the least bit sensible.

And any chance the movie has of coming off is tossed away in an incompetently mis-ordered finale that guts whatever suspense was building for an “aftermath” where “what finally happened” is unimaginatively and dully explained via an interrogation and flashback within it.

Johnson (“United 93,””Captain Phillips” and “The Mauritanian”) makes a colorful fraud caught up in a double homicide in which he is almost implicated. He didn’t do the killing, as the testy lawyer (Alexandra Gilbreath) for his imprisoned friend (Fehr) notes. But he set it up and put the “possessed” and “evil” artifact in his house.

“It’s a CHUNK of TREE,” he protests, ridiculing her “Christian” take on what happened. Her religion has “more than one and a half billion followers the world over,” she spits back.

“So does Dwayne F—–g Johnson!”

He enlists a production assistant to wire up a convenient flat, puts up an ad and a same sex couple (Alana Wallace, Aislinn De’Ath) come into town for the weekend. Maria (De’Ath, and is that a perfect horror name or what?) has just split from her husband, bringing rebellious teen Joey (Anya Newall) and tiny tyke Lily (Laura Mount) with her.

But there’s nothing like a rebellious teen and, you know, demonic assaults that most of them cannot see to put a strain on a new couple.

Johnson’s acerbic take on a classic Hollywood vulgarian is the most fun element in play here. A quick temper and a quick way with a cutting quip makes us wait for the next nasty exchange.

“Listen lady, I don’t have the time or the crayons to explain this to you.”

The attacks have a barely-glimpsed quickness that makes the early ones more effective than those in the finale, in which we see beastly transformations and graphic butchery.

“Lair” isn’t quite working as the “strain on the family” horrors play out, and bodies are covered up. It falls utterly apart in the equally-slow-footed third act, finishing the botch-job begun in the first.

Rating: unrated, bloody violence, sexual situations, pot use, profanity

Cast: Corey Johnson, Alana Wallace, Aislinn De’Ath, Anya Newall, Sean Buchanan, Lara Mount and Oded Fehr.

Credits: Scripted and directed by Adam Ethan Crow. A 1091 release.

Running time: 1:39

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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