The film adaptation of Shirley Jackson's novel
out now, We Have Always Lived in the Castle, is a thriller with a fairytale glaze. It doesn't involve ghosts, ghouls, or any monstrous creatures lurking in the dark. Instead, family secrets, the reappearance of a mysterious relative, and hateful villagers haunt the story. And though there's nothing light about the subject matter, everything is deceitfully bright and colorful — until it isn't.
Taissa Farmiga plays 18-year-old Merricat who lives in the Blackwood manor with her elder sister Constance (Alexandra Daddario), and her Uncle Julian (Crispin Glover). The three were the only survivors of a mysterious tragedy that hit the rest of their family five years ago. And though shunned — and even despised — by their community, the three lived in peace with their weekly routine in place. Then, suddenly, a cousin named Charles (Sebastian Stan) comes to town and changes everything. Soon, things begin to unravel in the Blackwood household, and things get even
While there may not be any supernatural scares in the movie, it's full of eerie moments that will make your heart race and your skin crawl in anticipation. Here are 15 of the eeriest parts of
We Have Always Lived in the Castle, which had us on the edge of our seats. Spoilers ahead!
Constance's smile is one of the deceitfully bright and shiny things throughout the movie. Even when things aren't going well, or when trouble's on the horizon, or when in uncomfortable situations, Constance flashes her creepily huge smile, using her false optimism as a coping mechanism. You can almost hear her trying to reassure herself.
Merricat's Midnight Paranoia
Early on in the movie, Merricat wakes up in the middle of the night with a fright. She goes out, and makes noises that wake Constance as she locks her deceased father's room. Her face ashen, she tells Constance that she feels their father returning.
Uncle Julian was left traumatized by the arsenic poisoning that killed his family. He usually babbles about the experience, continues to write about it, brings it up with the people he interacts with, and mistakenly identifies cousin Charles as his brother John.
Cousin Charles's Arrival
Just as Merricat's paranoia is at an all-time high, cousin Charles arrives at the Blackwood home, and brings with him what Merricat perceives as bad omens. The day that he intrudes on their lives, all of Merricat's "spells" — which she used to protect Constance and their "castle" — were tampered with.
Merricat's Spells & Incantations
Merricat believes that running to the woods, digging holes, burying valuable silver coins and random knickknacks and nailing her father's belongings on trees can protect her and her sister from harm... but that's obviously not the case.
The Blackwoods' Reappearance
In a moment of panic, Merricat sees a hallucination of her parents as she's digging in the forest. This creepy scene shows her parents as cold and standoffish, though they're trying to console and comfort Merricat, calling her their favorite child and saying how she must never be punished.
Cousin Charles Catches Merricat Spying On Him
When Charles decides to go down to town, Merricat follows him and watches him closely. Charles sees his cousin peering through the diner window, and this creates a tense moment as it seems Charles is ready to pounce and attack Merricat. She, however, is able to run off and avoids confrontation, but not without doing some damage on his prized car.
Constance & Charles's Relationship
One of Charles's defining characteristics is that he looks like Merricat and Constance's dad, John Blackwood. Both Uncle Julian and Constance say this during when her first arrives at the house. Because of this, and because of the fact that they're related, his relationship with Constance is quite disturbing. Though it's never really made completely clear what their relationship becomes, the sinister insinuation is that the two are taking over the late Mr. and Mrs. Blackwood's role as the masters of the household. This then confirms Merricat's worst fears.
A Confrontational Family Dinner
At dinner, things get really tense as Charles decides to confront Merricat about why she doesn't like him. Merricat, as usual, refuses to engage as Constance reassures Charles. Charles's repressed anger begins to show itself.
Finally, when Charles gets fed-up by Merricat's senseless recitation of every poisonous substance in the book, he attacks. He gets physical with Merricat, tackles her to the ground, and puts his hand over her mouth. But just when you think he's about to finish the job, he gets distracted by the smell of burning.
The villagers watch with glee as the Blackwood mansion burns. They rejoice, clap, and throw rocks at the large house's windows. Once the firemen give tell them the coast is clear, they charge violently into the building, and destroy everything in sight.
The Villagers Abuse The Blackwoods
Constance and Merricat try to escape as soon as the villagers make their way in. But once they get out of one of the house's windows, the villagers grab them, and try to separate them. Men hold Merricat back as she tries to stop people from pulling at Constance's dress, tugging at her arms, and dragging her on the ground.
The day after the fire, when everything has quieted down, Charles makes his way back. And though he starts out by trying to apologize and calmly plead with Constance, he gets aggressive and uses force to enter the mansion once more.
Charles attacks Constance once he's able to get into the kitchen. And this prompts the ever-protective Merricat to grab Constance's snow globe of the Leaning Tower of Pisa, and smashes it onto Charles's head. This, ultimately, kills the intruder.
Because of the violent turn of events, the sisters — in their soiled and bloody garments — bury their cousin Charles in the garden without uttering a word.
A Colorless & Quiet End
By the end, the once colorful Blackwood household becomes a lifeless hull. Even Merricat and Constance's makeshift clothes made from white curtains speak volumes about their state of being. Now, new secrets haunt their home.
These scenes may not have made you scream or jump in your seat, but they probably got under your skin. It's the quiet moments of heavy tension, of always being on the brink of an outburst of emotion or some sort of explosion, that makes
We Have Always Lived in the Castle a nuanced creeper.