I have varied feelings about this film, but I mostly enjoyed it. Certain things did surprise me, while other aspects of the movie left me feeling like I was watching a Poltergeist-Amityville-Grudge conglomeration.
The film has a strong opening, as it efficiently builds plot and characters without hitting us over the head too hard. I genuinely felt bad for the Campbell family as they struggle to make ends meet while caring for a child with cancer. I was quickly invested in the characters, particularly Matt with a strong performance by Kyle Gallner, and was not insulted by blatant exposition and hokey scares (which changes later unfortunately). I appreciated the screenwriter’s method of getting the family into this home “with a history,” as it is originally turned down and only accepted under dire circumstances.
The home itself is not overtly creepy or completely dilapidated. The most disturbing aspect of the house is a room in the basement that cannot be accessed, but windowed doors allow the characters to try to peek inside only to see nothing. The sealed-off room kept me guessing, kept me nervous whenever someone got to close to the glass, and wasn’t over-the-top. Of course, many of the cheap scares—shadow crosses frame, lights go out, door creaks open, etc,—populate the screen, but there are some original ones thrown in to sustain my intrigue.
It's ok, I have cancer.
The Under the Bed scare never gets old...or does it?
My biggest problem with the film is not its overall story or its basic horror elements, but how routine it began to feel. The way in which all of the small scares kept piling up was not pushing me to the edge of my seat. One might expect the scares to rise in intensity, but these “spooky” occurrences just keep repeating and I never actually feel like anyone (except Matt) is in danger. The not-so-thrilling moldy fruit scare? Just before the climax! Really? After a while, I’m seeing the same old routine over and over again. This is also true with the obligatory flashbacks in sepia tones. Admittedly, the cutting off the eyelid gag almost had me cringing, but the mystery and intensity disappeared whenever the golden ghosts appeared.
Still, there are some really cool things about this PG-13, Virginia-Madsen-starring ghost film. The first being the metaphysics behind death and its relationship to ghosts. The second and most important of all, ectoplasm. I only wish there was more of it!
I wouldn’t race out to see the movie, but I’d recommend it to anyone that isn’t tired of ghost stories quite yet!