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|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E
dir Stephen Kay
scr Eric Kripke, Juliet Snowden, Stiles White
with Barry Watson, Emily Deschanel, Tory Mussett, Skye McCole Bartusiak, Lucy Lawless, Philip Gordon, Andrew Glover, Robyn Malcolm, Charles Mesure, Jennifer Rucker, Louise Wallace, Michael Saccente
release US 4.Feb.05, UK 4.Mar.05
05/US Ghost House 1h26
Billed as a terrifying exploration of human fear, you at least expect a bit of actual psychological suspense. But every jolt in this film involves crash editing and deafening noises, while nothing is made of the premise or the characters.
Tim (Watson) has managed to grow up despite his debilitating fear of darkness under beds and in closets. Having witnessed his father's violent abduction by the boogeyman (Glover), he's terrified about returning home years later for the funeral of his crazed mother (Lawless). Leaving his fed-up girlfriend (Mussett) behind, he heads home and reacquaints himself with a neighbour friend (Deschanel) and a creepy girl (Bartusiak) as his old demons come back to haunt him.
It's an understatement to say this film is over-designed. Every set has been created to look as scary as possible, which means nothing looks realistic. Which means we can't identify with the settings at all. Add to this wafer-thin characters played by attractive young actors who never get a chance to add any depth. And a script that throws out logic in lieu of horror movie cliches like women taking baths alone.
Director Kay is clearly wanting to echo Asia's creep-out thriller hits, but he forgets their less-is-more brilliance to instead pile on over-the-top set pieces, leading to a cacophonous and incomprehensible climax. Vaguely insinuating is one thing; noisily muddled is another. Instead of Nakata or Miike, he instead replicates Paul WS Anderson's mindless-jolt approach to horror. It isn't remotely scary, and keeps us jumping only because the sounds and images are so frantically edited.
That said, there are some intriguing things going on, including Tim's bizarre time/space displacement, some heavy subtext in his fear of open closets, and the gorgeous quality of the filming itself, in which everything is glaring white or blackly shadowed, with little space for shades of grey or any other colour (besides some well-placed streaks of fake blood, of course). But like the bright young cast, these details are drowned out by the chaos around them. And most unforgivable of all, it takes itself far too seriously.
|jessica curlee, mira loma, california: "this was a wussy movie. i thought that it was going to be way scaryer than what it was and i am 12 years old." (30.Mar.05)
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