Don't Knock Twice (2 stars)

Don't Knock Twice

Derivative witchcraft-themed horror from Caradog James, starring Katee Sackhoff

Witchcraft and Welsh locations may seem like an unusual combination, but Don't Knock Twice is a supernatural horror aimed squarely at transatlantic audiences – a film in the Ring / Babadook mould of women-falling-foul-of-ancient-curses. Caradog James's latest is professionally mounted, but too familiar to provide anything other than routine jump-scares.

Jess (Katee Sackhoff, of Battlestar Galactica and Oculus fame) is a sculptor whose work reflects her torment over a custody battle for her estranged daughter. The daughter in question, Chloe (Sing Street's Lucy Boynton), unwisely accepts a dare to knock twice on the front door of the deceased Mary Aminov – rumoured through urban legend to be a witch – which leads to the rapid demise of Chloe's boyfriend Danny (Jordan Bolger). When she pitches up at Jess's studio for protection, the pair find themselves embroiled in a race-against-the-clock to discover the secret of the witch's curse.

With funding from Ffilm Cymru Wales, James (The Machine) has assembled a slick third feature with a neat opening credits sequence and an atmospheric use of its central domestic location. Some of the technical aspects of the film – sound design, photography, etc – are also up to scratch, while Nick Moran is on good form as a dogged detective who may know more about Aminov's death than he pretends.

Yet the rote plotting, stilted dialogue and lack of local colour disappoint, and it's a strange world where public money is used to create a generic knock-off that settles for merely aping Hollywood product. It's a shame the energies of the filmmakers were not focused on a less derivative story, with more references to the culture of the country that funded it.

Limited release from Fri 31 Mar.

Don't Knock Twice

  • 2 stars
  • 2016
  • UK
  • 95 min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Caradog James
  • Cast: Katee Sackhoff, Lucy Boynton, Nick Moran
  • UK release: 31 March 2017

Jess (Sackhoff) and her estranged daughter Chloe (Boynton) have to discover the secret of a witch’s curse. Slick supernatural horror aimed at transatlantic audiences, but with disappointingly rote plotting, stilted dialogue and a lack of local colour. For all the technical skill, it’s a shame that it’s so derivative.