Reviewed by Alicia Glass
Studio: Alliance Films
MPAA Rating: R
Director: Scott Derrickson
Review Rating: 7
A true-crime writer who moved his family into a house that was the scene of a previous murder, finds a cache of 8mm films featuring other murders and finds himself and his family the victim of vicious supernatural visitations.
I can’t put my finger on what it is about this movie that actually makes it quite watchable. Ethan Hawke as writer and father Ellison Oswalt runs around in this awful sweater most of the time, drinks too much, and in general isn’t willing to give up his dream of finally breaking it big with his next true-crime book for the sake of his families safety or even sanity. He yells at his wife, snarls at his children, is flippant with the small town Sheriff who tries to tell him to leave, and even accepts the help of the celebrity-smitten Deputy So and So for researching his latest opus. The wife Tracy (Juliet Rylance) is your standard generic worried wife character in any given horror flick, and the more she tries to knock some sense into Ellison, the more he buries himself in his work and locks the door. The kids, Trevor (Michael Hall D’Addario) and Ashley (Clare Foley) start acting out as soon as they move in to the new house – Trevor has godawful night terrors, and Ashley sees the ghosts of the kids already following her father, even painting them on her wall. But that’s just the laundry list of the not-so-good things. On to the nifty stuff.
Perhaps a day or two after Ellison begins setting up his workroom, he goes into the attic and finds an old 8mm film projector and a box of reels from previous years. And as the curious investigator he is, just has to set them up in the workroom and watch them, only to be surprised and disgusted when the reels reveal the rather horrid deaths of five families, apparently at the hands of this ghoulish figure generally referred to as Mr. Boogey. Ellison still hasn’t told his wife or either of his children that they moved into a house where a murder of an entire family less one missing child was committed right in the backyard. He converts the 8mm films to computer vid files as though that would help him study things closer, finding more and more visions of Mr. Boogey and various symbols on the blood-strewn walls that lead him to seek aid from a college professor over his computer. He didn’t get credit for it, but Professor Jonas that Ellison speaks to is actually Vincent D’Onofrio, master of such roles as the Carl Stargher in The Cell. The Prof explains that the symbols are indicative of an ancient pagan deity known as Bughuul, who eats children more or less, and that there’s no real way to avoid him once you’ve seen his symbols or worse, his image. All these families who were murdered in the most horrific ways had one young child go missing, never to be seen again even after the murders have take place. But then hey, it finally begins occurring to Ellison (and the audience, if it hasn’t occurred already, it’s now cluex4 time) those terrible reels he’s been watching: if Bughuul is actually in the video, who’s doing the shooting? Realizing he’s made a terrible mistake far too late, Ellison frantically wakes his wife and children in the dead of night to run away to their old home with a sigh of relief; it’s over. Or is it? Deputy So and So keeps calling Ellison, even after Ellison swore up down and sideways there isn’t going to be a new book anymore, and hey that’s terrific, but. The star-struck Deputy does thorough research and discovered the other link between the murders, how they followed a chain of eachother after getting out of that house, and guess what Ellison just did with his family. Noone ever pays close enough attention to the children in these Horror films, even when the story is supposedly about them, and it just hasn’t occurred to Ellison to be suspicious at all when his daughter makes him a late drink as her way of saying goodnight – forever.
Somehow the difference in camera styles doesn’t get annoying or nauseating. The tone is constantly set with a fine score, you just can’t have a good Horror flick without a great score. Perhaps it’s the truly creepy ending, with all those children in dead paleface, and Bughuul himself, who never speaks but lurks about in the most terribly evil manner. Huzzah for villains who don’t talk at all! I could’ve skipped the “gotcha!” at the very very end though, just sayin.