STORY: A family moves into a new house in suburban America only to find that they have some very unwelcome, ghoulish visitors. The latter take over the family’s home electronics (especially liking the flat screen TV) and capture their little daughter Madison (Clements). Along with some specialized help, they rescue Madison from her demonic captors.
[quote_box_right]CAST: Sam Rockwell, Rosemary DeWitt, Saxon Sharbino, Kyle Catlett, Kennedi Clements, Jared Harris, Jane Adams, Nicholas Braun
DIRECTION: Gil Kenan
DURATION: 1 hour 33 minutes[/quote_box_right]
REVIEW: Remaking the legendary horror film that was Steven Spielberg and Tobe Hooper’s 1982 classic is a tall order for any director. Gil Kenan chooses not to experiment too much with the original narrative and plays it somewhat safe.
However, there’s plenty to give horror buffs their money’s worth in the jump scares department, especially in the first half. Instead of the Freeling family from the original, here, we have the Bowen clan who are beleaguered by things that go bump in the night.
Devoted patriarch Eric (Rockwell) has been unemployed for a while and wife Amy (DeWitt) has her hands full as a homemaker. But apart from Madison, it is actually her protective brother Griffin (Catlett) whose performance often steers the plot. Which is not to say that the others – Eric the strong father and Amy the anguished matriarch – are any less on point. Playing the eldest sibling, Saxon also has two key moments in the film. But oddly, it is their expert ghostbuster Carrigan (Harris) whose presence is largely vestigial.
The Bowen’s house of horrors is a minefield of scares. Evil dolls, clowns, toys and even the gnarled old tree outside. And of course, closets that contain more than just clothes and shoes. Interesting modern touches, such as an innovative use for a drone and a rogue smartphone are added but the pace is just too breezy and more time could have been invested in balancing tension buildup with the jump scares, measure for measure. From another perspective, as a result of the film’s pace, it also doesn’t drag. And the special effects finale scene in the demonic dimension, are suitably creepy. Although this could have been gourmet, it is actually fast-food horror that’s perfectly passable.