“What do you know about Yorkshire stone?”
Olivia Williams’ face on the DVD cover says it all really… Bypassing cinemas to be shown straight onto Channel 5 as The Haunting of Radcliffe House on Boxing Day 2014, Nick Willing’s Altar is a horror of a ghost story. It was funded through Kickstarter but a low budget is the least of his problems when there’s such a dearth of ideas that sees it stealing from The Shining, The Grudge and The Woman In Black to name just a few.
Williams plays Meg Hamilton, a renovator who ships her family up to a dilapidated country pile on the Yorkshire Moors while she restores it to its original Victorian grandeur. Accident-prone colleagues and superstitious locals leave her to do the work on her own but as she uncovers mystery after mystery, not least the history of a murder/suicide involving the original owners, it’s clear that the strange goings-on are rooted in something supernatural.
But quite what that is is never really explained. There’s a lot of distracting business with a Rosicrucian mosaic, spectral visions and ghostly possessions that affect her husband and two children but it’s all left terribly vague. Instead we’re given a procession of laughable supporting characters who each turn up briefly to deliver their bit of exposition and then never return (the best is the ghost-hunter who is scared off…by a ghost).
The scares never really hit home, the effects are cheaply done and though the visuals are initially striking, the continuous use of the same filter makes it most monotonous. Plot developments are left unexplained, contrivances overused and the storytelling disappointingly unsophisticated. Williams tries her best in this leading role but Channel 5 is pretty much where Altar belongs.