‘Dwelling’ eschews jump-scares for a quiet creepiness

In the realm of hauntings, mirrors are bad news — and it’s especially daunting if a mirror that has been left behind in a haunted house has been painted over in black, as if to impede¬†whatever uses it as a portal.

Such a mirror might provoke major anxiety and eventual fleeing of the house, but for Ellie in “Dwelling” — now available on DVD¬†— this is something to confront and investigate. Ellie (Erin Marie Hogan, “House of Manson”) is a young woman determined to find out what transpired on a tragic night 17 years earlier in which her mother died. Having dealt with the horrifying and puzzling memories of that night nearly two decades earlier that not only claimed the life of her mother but also led her younger sister, River (Devanny Pinn, “House of Manson,” “Casey Anthony: An American Murder Mystery”), to become institutionalized, Ellie is ready to do what it takes to find a way to communicate with her mother and learn the truth about that tragic night.

Having assumed the custody of River’s adolescent daughter Izzy (Abigail Mary), Ellie, along with her supportive fiance, Gavin (Mu-Shaka Benson), decides to go right into the teeth of the storm, buying a haunted house called Amara and moving in there with Gavin and Izzy.

Izzy herself seems to have inherited her mother’s “gift” of hearing voices and communicating with the beyond, thus is a vital tool in Ellie’s quest.

It’s inside the house they discover the painted-over mirror, and before long Ellie is peeling away the paint, not sure what will happen but suspecting this mirror might be a key in breaking through to the other side.

Written and directed by Kyle Mecca, “Dwelling” is not a jump-scares paranormal movie. Instead, it is a foreboding mystery that requires the utmost attention of the viewer. Indeed, those watching “Dwelling” may need to see it a second or third time to catch all the hints. Mecca’s script is meticulous in presenting the various clues as to what is going on.

Hogan wonderfully conveys Ellie as a woman who will not be denied in her effort to learn what triggered a horrible night that had such a devastating impact on her and River. At times her obstinacy seems foolhardy, especially when she appears willing to put Izzy and Gavin at risk. But at the core of her determination is the drive to find closure and a way to liberate River from the inner demons that keep her locked away instead of being a mother to Izzy.

Benson is superb as Gavin, a man who adores Ellie and is a terrific and patient uncle to Izzy, but whose resolve to remain supportive of Ellie dissolves amid his own research that uncovers the possibility of something horribly sinister lurking in the house, in addition to his own nerve-wracking experiences as the unseen forces start to take hold.

Mary exudes a child’s innocence that is an effective shield in helping her maintain composure. Yes, the new doll she gets for her birthday and ominously names Amara communicates with her and seems to have control over what Izzy can and cannot say about what’s going on, but to the girl, that just part of having friends, even if they are not living things.

Pinn does not have much screen time, but makes an impact is the tragically cursed River, stalked by voices while she sketches creepy drawings from visions in her head. Her desperation to be free of all this leads to a shocking act.

“Dwelling” is not a movie for those who seek the thrills and chills and shrieks of a roller-coaster scary movie. It is instead a quiet and challenging experience, peeling away the layers as we stand side by side with Ellie, who despite some of the daunting occurrences she encounters, manages to contain any panic and analyze the situations in a rational manner. Yes, she is stubborn, but her resolve to find a path to a better life for her, Gavin, Izzy and River is an attribute worth admiring.