I did bounce around a little when deciding what personal rating I would award this film. Sam Saffold-Geri's short production was a good one no matter how you slice it, but did it deserve a three and a half stars? Or a full out four? Maybe numerically, there isn't much difference - but that half star means a lot to me. A giant difference. "A Welcoming Place" is good. No doubt about that. The question then becomes one of preference. Reviews in general are all based on personal preference - of course - but for myself, what really solidified the greater of the two numbers? It wasn't quite the story. At it's heart, this shows itself as a tale about a haunted house of sorts. Or maybe more precisely, haunted people that may not be people at all. We've seen movies involving possession in one form or another. We've seen stories where things are not what they appear... we even expect such twists to happen. It all comes down to presentation, entertainment value, and that ever important twist on a familiar theme. For me, the little "umph" came when I realized how engrossed I was in the film. I even found myself skimming through it again, after my initial viewing. For that alone, I figured going with four stars was deserved. And why the hell not? "A Welcoming Place" has a little bit of everything. What could be any more creepy than inheriting a creepy - but not dilapidated - old home in the middle of nowhere. An old home that may be creepy - yet is also beautifully kept with beautiful surroundings. What says that "something's up" - more than finding out people, a couple, is living there? A couple that just seem off and strange somehow? Mysterious walks, odd conversations and a general sense that something isn't as it appears? This is what Philip walks himself into when going to investigate his inherited property. The perfect excuse for an exercise in atmospherics and potential dread. What is it that waits for him within this building? Or, within those mysterious caves not far away? What indeed.
As mentioned above, I decided to go with my gut, and base my rating on the fact that for a time, I was totally lost in the world "A Welcoming Place" put forth. The visual elements were top notch. Location(s), color, angles... this was... simply put... a great looking production. Did I mention it sounded great as well? Easy to hear dialog and an excellent backing score all contributed to my experience. Contributed... but not solidified. I'd be a fool not to realize this film has something to say. I'll leave that not so hidden message for you, the viewer to figure out... but it was a clever trip to that destination. Let me leave things at that.
What finally, completely solidified my lowly opinion on this piece? The ability of the cast to keep things slightly off-kilter, as they tried their hardest to act normal. An actor acting like they were acting. Sounds weird right? Yet this is really the best way to describe things. Leading the charge is Daniel J. Layton as Philip. No problem coming across as a man becoming unhinged by his own fears. Cael King and Francesca Louise White also have no problems as the very... very... unusual couple Philip projects his fears upon. Considering the plot points of this production, you end up truly appreciating their performances. Even more during that final act. When all rolled up together, the performances from all the cast, combined with the story and visuals, well... sold the film. There was also a lot of detail work, I noticed on my second skimming, that really helped push that strange vibe. I won't go into the details, this is something for viewers to notice for themselves. I will say this. Some of that "creepy" feeling comes from visual queues and angles you may not notice at first. Let me leave it at that.
The long and short of things? "A Welcoming Place" really did the trick. I was in one of those moods before watching. I just didn't "want" to watch anything. Very quickly that mood shifted to one of interest - and finally... entertainment. Well done to the cast and crew. A solid four stars. Did I mention this film was available to watch now? For free? So what's stopping you?