Greetings again from the darkness. The overdose and saturation of reality TV the past decade has resulted in at least a couple of Ghost Hunter type shows. Surely you have stumbled on at least one of these. Director James Wan kicks off this latest haunted house adventure with the all-too-familiar “Based on a True Story” and then proceeds to fill the next couple of hours with scene after scene of horror film staples … things we have jumped at many times over the years. However, this one is bumped up a notch thanks to atmosphere, direction and acting ability, and the fact that yes, the ghost hunters are/were REAL.
The Perron family has moved to the country for a “fresh start” and here is what we learn:
1. If the family dog won’t enter the new house, then neither should you or your kids. It’s time to move out. How many dogs aren’t dog-wagging thrilled to follow the kids right in through the front door?
2. If all the clocks (electric and wind-up) stop at exactly the same time, it’s time to move out.
3. If you stumble on a boarded up cellar/basement, just leave it boarded up … and it’s time to move out.
4. If multiple birds fly full speed into your house, breaking their necks, it’s time to move out.
5. If your daughter discovers an antique toy that she carries around while talking to her new imaginary friend … it’s time to move out. If she brings her “old” imaginary friend with her to the new house … see The Shining.
6. If, over two consecutive evenings, your sleepwalking daughter bangs her head into the armoire left by the previous owners, it’s time to move out.
7. Having 5 daughters seems to make parenting exceptionally difficult, but this in itself is no reason to move out of the house.
8. Playing blindfolded ‘Hide and Clap’ is not an appropriate game when you live in a 3 level home. This is no reason to move out, just find a game that doesn’t require a blindfold … or an Ouija board.
9. If you ever have to call demonologists to your home, don’t get defensive about not being a religious family. Just move out of the house.
Director Wan gives us tastes of the haunted house/possession Big 3: The Exorcist, Poltergeist and Amityville Horror. It’s not at the level of these, but it’s certainly better than most horror films of the past two decades … at least we don’t get any stupid teenagers wandering through the woods. In fact, this one plays right off our natural tendency to feel safe and secure while surrounded by our family within the confines of our own home. The biggest scares come from the moments we are most relaxed.
It’s Rated R for being frightening. There are no spinning heads or pea soup, and the gore factor is exceptionally low considering Mr. Wan directed Saw, the film that kicked off torture-fest movie genre. The acting here is really good for a horror film. Patrick Wilson also starred in Wan’s Insidious, and here he plays Ed Warren. With his clairvoyant wife Lorraine (Vera Farmiga), the Warrens are well known ghostbusters, ghost hunters, demonologists, or whatever label you care to apply. We learn about their most famous case regarding Annaelle the creepy as heck doll, and we also see how they save a trophy from each of their cases … and store it in their home (a seemingly dumb move). Lili Taylor and Ron Livingston are also strong in their roles as the Perron parents. Another thing I liked was that the kids seem like real kids … especially the recognizable Joey King and MacKenzie Foy.
Horror and Comedy are both at the mercy of personal taste. What makes you laugh and what makes you jump is probably different from others, so these two genres are difficult to recommend. Still, it takes talent to direct a horror movie and not really introduce any new “gotcha’s”, while still keeping the viewers grabbing the armrests. So enjoy the jumps, cover your eyes, and keep in mind … if your dog won’t enter your new house, it’s time to move out!
**NOTE: an interesting side note … Ryan Gosling co-wrote the song that plays over the closing credits
SEE THIS MOVIE IF: your favorite horror films are the haunted house types
SKIP THIS MOVIE IF: you have 5 daughters and think moving to the country is a good idea
watch the trailer: