HERE BEFORE – Review by Susan Wloszcyna

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A haunting atmosphere engulfed with a sense of grief is everything in Irish writer-director Stacey Gregg’s unsettling thriller Here Before. Set in a damp and chilly suburb of Belfast, the story begins when a new family moves next door to Laura (Andrea Riseborough), a distraught mother who lost her daughter Josie in a car accident several years before when her husband was behind the wheel. The new neighbors’ daughter, Megan, resembles Laura’s deceased daughter.

Laura bumps into Megan (Niamh Dornan, blond, freckled and accommodating) while the child is waiting for her mom to pick her up from school.

Instead, Laura offers to drive Megan back home. And she starts getting a feeling that perhaps there is an uncanny connection between the two girls. Meanwhile, Laura’s teen son Tadhg (Lewis Askie) is a self-centered trouble-maker, who enjoys upsetting the apple cart. They end up going to an empty playground while Megan insists that she has been there before.

Melancholic Laura continues to hang out with Megan, although her mom (Eileen O’Higgins) isn’t happy with the situation. As an adult, she tries to stay away and maintain boundaries. But she then sees evidence that there might be a connection between the two girls – especially when she witnesses such signs as white feather drifting from the sky into her hand.

The cinematography does much of the heavy lifting as does the off-kilter musical score. As for Riseborough, she is able to smile through her tears while exposing her character’s vulnerabilities. For me, this movie brought to mind the equally tense Poltergeist when a family learns that their suburban neighborhood was built on a grave site and is beset with ghosts. Viewers will eventually realize that maybe Laura is onto something when Megan suggests she has a familiarity with their neighborhood. Something isn’t quite right and likely is very wrong, as the mystery, alas, is cracked open.

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Susan Wloszczyna

In her nearly 30 years at USA Today, Susan Wloszczyna interviewed everyone from Vincent Price and Shirley Temple to Julia Roberts and Will Smith. Her coverage specialties include animation, musicals, comedies and any film starring Hayley Mills, Sandy Dennis or hobbits. Her crowning career achievements so far, besides having Terence Stamp place his bare feet in her lap during an interview for The Limey, is convincing the paper to send her to New Zealand twice for set visits, once for The Return of the King and the other for The Chronicles of Narnia and King Kong, and getting to be a zombie extra and interview George Romero in makeup on the set for Land of the Dead. Though not impressive enough for Pulitzer consideration, she also can be blamed for coining the moniker "Frat Pack," often used to describe the comedy clique that includes Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn and Will Ferrell. Her positions have included Life section copy desk chief for four years and a film reviewer for 12 years. She is currently a contributor for the online awards site Gold Derby and is an Oscar expert for RogerEbert.com. Previously, she has been a freelance film reporter and critic, contributing regularly to RogerEbert.com, MPAA’s The Credits, the Washington Post, AARP The Magazine online and Indiewire as well as being a book reviewer for The Buffalo News. She previously worked as a feature editor at the Niagara Gazette in Niagara Falls, N.Y. A Buffalo native, she earned her bachelor's degree in English at Canisius College and a master's degree in journalism from Syracuse University.