You might as well toss a coin. Heads we watch, tails we skip.
Based on the well-worn premise that shit can always get worse if there’s a ghost on the loose, Altar is haunted house hijinks with a decent cast. At its best, the British production, written and directed by Nick Willing, serves up The Shining Lite for viewers satisfied with pedestrian paranormal thrills.
Renovation specialist Meg Hamilton (Olivia Williams) packs up her family and moves from London to the shadowy and desolate Yorkshire Moors, to restore a shadowy and desolate mansion once owned by a sorcerous couple back in Victorian times.
Husband Alec (Matthew Modine), a frustrated artist, immediately falls under the house’s malign influence after cutting his thumb and thoughtfully bleeding all over the goddamn place. He then retreats to his artist studio to brood and bleed some more.
With the parents absorbed in their respective career dramas, daughter Penny (Antonia Clarke) starts seeing spooks, while younger brother Harper (Adam Thomas Wright), is repeatedly told to go to his room by an increasingly frazzled Mum.
The story offers nothing new, as Alec eventually goes full-on Jack Torrance, and Meg is left to defend herself and the kids from Psycho Dad and his newfound enthusiasm for occult rituals.
Olivia Williams gives it a spirited go, but the spectral events in Altar are pretty routine, save for the ending itself, which is delightfully grim.
Whether an inspired conclusion is worth sitting through a mostly tepid setup, is something I can’t speak to at the moment.
Heads or tails, it’s your call.