A huge humpbacked steamer trunk takes second billing in “The Bride in the Box,” a new horror film. As I once spent a few years buying, restoring and re-selling such trunks, I was keen to see any movie that might have been more accurately-titled “The Trousseau in the Trunk.”
OK, some of that’s true. I have restored and sold such trunks, one or two to the “Wizarding World” theme park attraction at Universal Orlando. Top tip? Don’t buy premade replacements for the leather straps that rot away on this preferred luggage of 19th and early 20th century immigrants taking steamer passage to America. Measure the brass end loops that hold them on the trunk, and buy old belts that will fit at your local thrift store and cut them to size using the original loops.
But that’s my ONLY interest in this thoroughly uninteresting, not-remotely-scary horror tale. Yours?
The debut feature of writer-director Doug Bost stars veteran bit players Victor Verhaeghe and Carolyn Baeumler and Acadia Bost, who is — I’m guessing — the director’s daughter. They play a family splitting apart on a summer vacation in scenic, sunny Maine.
Husband Don is morphing into the primary child-rearer, thanks to a rageholic fit that got him fired from his job, not that his wife knows this. Heather is off TV acting in New York, leaving Don and daughter Iris to check into their rental house in Winter Harbor without her.
The house has this locked trunk in it. The rental property is run through an antique shop, where Iris stumbles across a post-WWII journal of a frustrated bride-to-be. And that’s where she also stumbles into an aged wedding dress, pitched by the the pale-as-death clerk (Tammy Faye Starlight).
You know what they say about wedding dresses, the pale one tells the 10-year-old. “You don’t pick it. It picks you.”
Next thing we know, Iris is talking to something or someone inside that old trunk. She’s hiding that dress, and sticks and twigs under the bed. She’s begging Daddy to play the “wedding” game, something that annoys the heck out of Mom (whom Iris calls by her first name). And not for the reasons you might expect. With Dad playing the preacher and the groom, it’s a game that leaves Mom out.
Don’s “Little girls have been marrying their daddies for centuries” is no reassurance to her, or us.
Honestly, is there anything promising in a story about a little girl who becomes possessed by a long dead would-be bride, who might have somehow wound up trapped in a trunk? The bits about how Iris will “need” such a dress “soon enough” from the locals are rural Red State icky, and only scary in a “Handmaid’s Tale” sense.
The adults may have their shouting matches, but there’s nothing in the child’s performance to make us fear for her and nothing in the way the film was written, shot and edited builds suspense or hints at terror.
With no jolts, no frights, zero effects and zero flair for shooting a sequence, scene or single take in a way that rattles or unnerves the viewer, “Bride in the Box” runs up against Big Question.
Why did they bother?
Cast: Victor Verhaeghe, Acadia Bost, Carolyn Baeumler and Tammy Faye Starlite
Credits: Scripted and directed by Doug Bost. A Random Media release.
Running time: 1:26