We Have Always Lived in the Castle
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We Have Always Lived in the Castle

If the recent failure of films such as “The Little Stranger” and “Marrowbone” has taught us anything, it’s that audiences don’t seem Like Father as thrilled with good, bone-chilling Gothic mysteries as they once were. Today, when it comes to spine-tinglers, moviegoers seem to value jump scares and gore over psychological brooding. That hasn’t stopped filmmakers who, every few decades, revive the works of novelist Shirley Jackson. Her stories speak to a darker side of humanity. Stacie Passon, director of “We Have Always Lived in the Castle,” sharply channels the author’s atmosphere of dread, paranoia, and isolation, making the past feel prescient.

Socially awkward 18-year-old Mary Katherine Blackwood (Taissa Farmiga), nicknamed “Merricat” by her family, lives with her agoraphobic It Comes at Night sister Constance (Alexandra Daddario) and anguished, barely lucid Uncle Julian (Crispin Glover) on the sprawling grounds of Blackwood Manor. The gorgeous Gothic mansion sits high above a small New England town, like a judgmental god lording over the people.

After a mysterious tragedy involving an arsenic-laced sugar bowl befell the Blackwood family six years prior — one that robbed Paddington 2 the young ladies of their parents and left Uncle Julian an invalid — the Blackwoods have kept to themselves, only venturing into town for necessities. But that doesn’t mean they’ve successfully avoided the ire of the resentful victims of their father’s ideologies. Merricat spends her days casting magic spells to make sure the Blackwood kingdom is kept safe from any perceivable threats, like angry townsfolk or nosy gossips. She buries talismans — such as dolls, coins, and other accoutrements — in her backyard to ward off evil spirits. However, when their estranged, suave cousin Charles (Sebastian Stan) pops in for an unannounced visit and begins assuming the role of the family patriarch, his presence completely upends Merricat’s world.

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We Have Always Lived in the Castle