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dir Joe Dante
scr Mark L Smith
prd Claudio Fah, David Lancaster, Michel Litvak, Vicki Sotheran
with Chris Massoglia, Haley Bennett, Nathan Gamble, Teri Polo, Bruce Dern, Dick Miller, Quinn Lord, John DeSantis, Jessica Just, Chord Overstreet, Chelsea Ricketts, Peter Shinkoda
release UK 24.Sep.10
Bump in the night: Bennett, Gamble and Massoglia
VENICE FILM FEST
TORONTO FILM FEST
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E|
Director Dante knows a thing or two about making teen thrillers, and this film gets the atmosphere just right without indulging in cheap movie gimmicks. Except for the 3D of course, which is used both sparingly and with a lot of wit.
Teenager Dane (Massoglia) is seriously annoyed that his mother (Polo) has uprooted him and his little brother Lucas (Gamble) yet again. But at least there's a cute girl, Julie (Bennett), living next door to their new house. Then Dane and Lucas discover a seemingly bottomless hole in the basement, and enlist Julie to figure out what it is. Soon all manner of scary things start happening, so they consult the house's creepy former resident (Dern), but he's no help at all.
The story feels like a children's book that taps into the dark corners of the human psyche to both entertain kids and help them deal with their fears. In other words, it's quite a clever premise, even if it ultimately seems a little simplistic. And Dante resists the temptation to ramp things up with whizzy editing and effects, keeping the film naturalistic and relaxed from the start, then slowly building tension while delivering sharp jolts and striking visual flourishes.
When we finally enter the hole with the kids, there's both a surge of tension and an exhilarating sense of discovery, a mix that younger filmmakers seem to have forgotten how to achieve. Visually, this segment of the story is pretty outrageous, but Dante never over-eggs it, keeping things grounded both in classic movie imagery (it resembles Dali's work with Hitchcock) and our own nightmares. Through the whole film, Dante balances humour, horror and insinuating black comedy, rather like an old-style monster movie.
Meanwhile, the fine cast deliver their performances without annoying overacting or corny sentimentality. These kids are as fascinated by the unknown as we are, and watching them band together to face their fears is both engaging and deeply satisfying. That everything is linked into their back-stories makes the plot perhaps a little too tidy for grown-ups who have learned that the world is actually a very messy place. But even that's somehow endearing. And of course comforting.
|R E A D E R R E V I E W S|
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© 2010 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall|
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