Fear of the dark or, more specifically, what might be hiding in the dark is something most people experience at some point in their life. Even a battle hardened horror fan such as myself has had moments in the wee hours of the morning when, in the grip of insomnia, my eyes alight on a patch of darkness in the corner of the room that seems just that little bit denser than it should be.
The plot of The Ten Steps revolves around young Katie (Julie Harding) who is left to babysit her younger brother (William O’Sullivan) whilst her parents (Paula & Gerard Lee) are out for an important meal with her father’s boss. The family recently moved into a new house that comes complete with a cellar that, should the legends speak true, is sometimes visited by the devil himself. Just after moving in, Katie, in the wake of having been told of the nature of the house by some kids at school, suffered a panic attack in the cellar. So when the lights go out and her father, not wanting to upset his boss by leaving early, asks her to go down to check the fuse box she’s understandably hesitant to do so.
There’s something refreshingly old fashioned about The Ten Steps. It feels like a throwback to the atmospheric, subtle terrors of writers such as M. R. James or film-makers like Val Lewton. With the exception of one well executed jump scare it’s all about atmosphere and steadily mounting dread. Crucial to the effectiveness of the tale is Jill Harding who gives a wonderfully nervy, instantly endearing performance. So good is she that I was somewhat disappointed to discover that after a small role in 2005 flop Turning Green her acting career came to a halt.
The Ten Steps is an effective exercise in escalating tension that culminates with an inspired sting in the tail that is certain to send a shiver up the spine. Muldowney is a talent worth watching and I’d love to see him tackle a feature full of the sort of subtle chills he harnesses so effectively here.