Irish helmer John Carney probably deserves applause for fleeing the formulae that made “Once” a breakout hit (and subsequent Broadway musical), but where he’s running isn’t exactly clear. “The Rafters,” the gothically accented follow-up to Carney’s wacky sci-fi comedy “Zonad,” aspires to the implied dread of the original “Haunting” and the sensual terror of early Francois Ozon. But lacking a solid narrative or a coherent payoff, the mood dissipates into the Aran Islands atmosphere that surrounds this misfired shocker. Opportunities seem limited; word of mouth will be lethal.
Rose (Marcella Plunkett) is traveling to the Arans, off the western Irish coast, for rather indeterminate purposes, and along the way meets a pair of creepy twentysomethings (Killian Scott, Sean Donegan) who make a bet about who’ll bed her first. That Rose seems deeply disturbed only encourages them, and had there been more genuine insight into the causes of Rose’s trouble, and less about the boys’ pursuit of her (including a laughable “Zabriskie Point”-inspired sex scene), the agitation might have led to genuine thrills. As it is, the trip, apart from some beautiful shooting by P.J. Dillon, is for naught.