We Have Always Lived in the Castle

Not all poisons come in a bottle.

Courtesy image

Shirley Jackson’s most famous works ­­­— “The Lottery,” The Haunting of Hill House — have been so profoundly influential on the last half-century of horror fiction that it’s easy to forget they came first. As such, the many familiar elements Concussion director Stacie Passon’s adaptation of Jackson’s 1961 We Have Always Lived in the Castle are only that way because they’re direct from the source. Set in the early 1960s, the castle-dwellers are 18-year-old Merricat (Taissa Farmiga), her older sister Constance (Alexandra Daddario), and their uncle Julian (Crispin Glover), the only survivors of an arsenic poisoning which killed the rest of the family and left Julian wheelchair-bound.

Only Merricat ventures outside to the nearby village — Shirleyville, which is a bit on the nose — whose inhabitants openly hate her. Into this proto-Grey Gardens blusters their erstwhile cousin Charles (Sebastian Stan), an All-American alpha who claims to want to help them move on but has his own motives, primarily involving the doe-eyed Constance and the family fortune. Lacking Hill House’s overt supernatural elements, We Have Always Lived in the Castle is more in the Southern Gothic tradition, though Passon creates a very strong sense of mid-20th-century New England. And if the story’s eventual tragedies feel inevitable, it’s because we have always lived with them.

Not rated. Opens Friday at the Roxie Theater.

View Comments