Steven Soderbergh Haunts Sundance with “Presence”

In *Presence*, Steven Soderbergh returns to Sundance with a haunting and surprisingly funny take on the classic haunted house story. Rather than placing himself in the middle of the action, Soderbergh’s camera serves as the titular ghost, silently observing and influencing the lives of the Payne family who inhabit the suburban home.
 Plot Overview
The film follows the Payne family—mom Rebecca (Lucy Liu), dad Chris (Chris Sullivan), son Tyler (Eddy Maday), and daughter Chloe (Callina Liang)—as they move into a seemingly perfect suburban house. However, as strange occurrences begin to unfold, it becomes clear that the house may not be as ideal as they initially thought. Chloe, still reeling from a recent tragedy, is the first to sense that something is amiss.
Themes and Execution
While *Presence* embraces many haunted house tropes, it primarily focuses on character drama, slowly unraveling the secrets of the Payne family’s past. Soderbergh and writer David Koepp skillfully drip-feed revelations, creating a sense of lurking dread rather than relying on jump scares. The film’s use of long, uninterrupted takes and the voyeuristic perspective of the camera effectively heighten tension, while also allowing for moments of surprising humor.
Lucy Liu and Chris Sullivan deliver standout performances, balancing cutting banter with moments of levity. The supporting cast, including Julia Fox as the chipper real estate agent, adds depth and humor to the narrative. Soderbergh’s camera work creates an atmosphere of unease, with scenes alternating between passive observation and intimate proximity to the characters.
*Presence* is a haunting ghost story that transcends the typical horror genre, offering a blend of tension and humor that lingers with the audience. Soderbergh’s return to Sundance proves to be a captivating and memorable experience.

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