Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB. USA, 2010. Alliance Films, IM Global, Haunted Movies. Screenplay by James Wan. Cinematography by David M. Brewer, John R. Leonetti. Produced by Jason Blum, Oren Peli, Steven Schneider. Music by Joseph Bishara. Production Design by Aaron Sims. Costume Design by Kristin M. Burke. Film Editing by Kirk M. Morri, James Wan. Toronto International Film Festival 2010.
Deliciously scary ghost story about a young family who move into a new house before tragedy strikes and one son goes into an inexplicable coma, remaining immobile for months while doctors are at a loss to explain it. The gloom sets in and dad Patrick Wilson is spending his nights grading papers at school while mom Rose Byrne is left home alone with three kids and a very spooky sensation: she starts to see a demonic presence hanging around her children’s rooms, and soon other strange figures begin to appear. She insists that they move to a new house, and naturally is thoroughly disappointed when they change abodes and the hauntings continue and her son does not get better. Then it gets even more marvelously strange as mother-in-law Barbara Hershey suggests that they she bring her paranormal expert friend (Lin Shaye in the film’s juiciest performance) to help solve the metaphysical mystery. This thoroughly terrifying horror film by James Wan gets high points for putting low emphasis on gore and instead using visual scare tactics to frighten you out of your clothing. Completely committed to the silliness of the genre, Wan does a terrific job of setting up the mystery and then unapologetically indulging in the silliness of the revelation: for some reason, when the film veers from a scarier Poltergeist into a colourful Carnival Of Souls, it does not lose any of its power to entertain or impress. Wilson is richly good as the paranoid and emotionally blocked father, while Byrne disappoints with her inability to make anything interesting out of the whiny distraught mother, but it’s a ripping good treat that is buoyed thoroughly by the director’s sense of fun and the supporting performances. It will delight those who love a good chiller and are constantly disappointed by the torture-porn bores that pass themselves off as horror movies these days.