A minor work by productive arthouse helmer Raoul Ruiz (it’s his 17th feature in the past 10 years), “Nucingen House” is a hokey haunted-house yarn with some idiosyncratic pleasures for the faithful. Loosely adapted from an 1838 story by Balzac, pic, toplining Jean-Marc Barr and Elsa Zylberstein, tells the intermittently amusing tale of a writer and his wife taking up residence in a strange manse occupied by ghosts determined to hang around and cause mischief. Ruiz’s name ensures fest berths; commercial prospects appear slim.
Eye-catching location is a mansion on the Chilean side of the Andean Cordillera. Residence is won in a bet by author William Henry James III (Barr), who arrives with emotionally fragile wife Anne-Marie (Zylberstein) and finds the place overrun by ghosts including oddball maid Ully (Miriam Heard), presumptuous type Bastien (Laurent Malet) and Bastien’s slightly demented brother, Dieter (Thomas Durand). Non-linear narrative and fruity performances supply scattered chuckles, but supernatural horror sequences are clunky and non-scary. Photography allowing backgrounds to frequently burn into white severely undercuts the attempt to sustain a mood of malignant menace. Rest of tech work is just fair.