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dir Ciaran Foy
scr Scott Derrickson, C Robert Cargill
prd Jason Blum, Scott Derrickson, Brian Kavanaugh-Jones
with James Ransone, Shannyn Sossamon, Robert Daniel Sloan, Dartanian Sloan, Lea Coco, Tate Ellington, John Beasley, Lucas Jade Zumann, Jaden Klein, Laila Haley, Caden M Fritz, Michale Woods
release US/UK 21.Aug.15
15/US eOne 1h37
Movie night: Robert and Dartanian Sloan
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E|
A great set-up propels the original story into an all-new scenario, with sharply observed filmmaking and strong, complex characters. And then the slow rot sets in, and the movie slips into the usual horror patterns. And as the lacklustre final act unfolds, it becomes clear that the screenwriters had no idea where to go with the story.
Courtney (Sossamon) has fled from her abusive husband Clint (Coco) and is hiding in a farmhouse, unaware that the nasty murder that took place there is contagious. But her bickering pre-teen sons Dylan and Zach (Robert and Dartanian Sloan) have picked up the vibes and are being treated to nightly home-made snuff movies made by ghostly children who murdered their families to appease a boogeyman (Woods). And if the sensitive Dylan won't take up the challenge, the bullying-prone Zach will. But an ex-deputy (Ransone) who witnessed the previous murder is trying to break the cycle.
Director Foy builds the tension impeccably, creating realistic characters while quietly revealing the otherworldly menace. In Clint and Zach, the film also has proper subtext: bullies who are even scarier than the supernatural mumbo jumbo swirling around them. There's also a surprisingly engaging connection between the dorky deputy and the steely single mother desperately trying to protect her young. So when the story shifts into full-on ghostly mayhem, it actually loses its oomph.
The only recurring cast member, Ransone is likeable and hapless. The way he stumbles into Courtney's life adds all sorts of unpredictable touches. Sossamon gets an unusually strong role for these kinds of movies, a woman who has responded to abuse with fierce resilience. When Courtney finally snaps at Clint, it's the most chilling moment in the movie. And the Sloan brothers (the actors are two among triplets) make a terrific sibling duo, at each others' throats with undercurrents of emotion.
But the screenplay throws away all of these interpersonal angles in order to indulge in a strikingly dull finale. Yes, it's morbid and grisly, continuing the string of unthinkably horrific murders documented by these young spectres on grainy Super 8 home movies (with a scratchy record providing a creepy soundtrack). But the film is most effective when it's quietly building a sense of dread, revealing the nastiness lurking in the shadows. Once it's out in the open, it feels unsatisfying. And it steals focus from the real story.
|R E A D E R R E V I E W S|
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© 2015 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall|
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