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dir-scr David S Goyer
with Odette Yustman, Gary Oldman, Cam Gigandet, Meagan Good, Idris Elba, Jane Alexander, James Remar, Carla Gugino, Atticus Shaffer, CS Lee, Michael Sassone, Craig Harris
release US 9.Jan.09, UK 27.Feb.09
09/US Universal 1h27
Bump in the night: Oldman, Yustman and Gigandet
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E|
Apparently, Goyer was having a bad day when he wrote this film. Certainly, we know the author of Blade and cowriter of the last two Batman films is far better than this unoriginal, unscary, clunky horror mess.
Casey (Yustman) is babysitting for a creepy kid (Shaffer) when she starts having terrifying visions of a ghostly child coming after her. This clearly isn't a dream, but her boyfriend (Gigandet) and best pal (Good) are sceptical. She decides to visit a priest (Oldman) for advice, as well as a sinster old woman (Alexander) who was a friend of her late mother (Gugino). Soon she's sure she's being targeted by a demon that has been haunting her family, so the priest finds an exorcist (Elba) to help.
To be fair, Goyer really gives it a good try. He relentlessly throws every horror movie gimmick at the screen: sudden appearances by evil-looking children, constant "don't go up the stairs" scenes, bugs and goo, mommy issues, loud clunking noises, jarring jump-cuts and girls in skimpy underwear. There's even a flashback to Auschwitz. But this orgy of crazed effects, cheap scares and jittery suspense never remotely frightens us.
The actors approach each scene with a game face. Yustman seems not to mind having a camera leer shamelessly at her under-clad body, and we actually believe that Casey is completely terrified by what she's facing, even if we aren't. Good is terrific in the thankless best pal role, while Gigandet adeptly provides the necessary beefcake. But we're never quite sure why excellent actors like Oldman, Olba, Alexander, Gugino or Remar (as Casey's dad) agreed to be in this movie beyond the paycheque. At least they lend the whole thing a bit of class.
But you do wonder if they ever read the script. The dialog is corny and packed with long monologs explaining the over-complicated mythology; the simplistic plot is riddled with ludicrous coincidences. These fundamental problems completely undermine the moodily atmospheric production design and the wrenching emotions the actors try to inject into their roles. In the end it feels dry and dull. Which isn't exactly what you want from a horror movie.
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© 2009 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall|
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