Run time: 99 mins
In Theaters: Friday 26th August 2011
Box Office USA: $24.0M
Distributed by: Miramax Films
Production compaines: Miramax Films, FilmDistrict, Necropia, Gran Via Productions, Tequila Gang
Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 58%
Fresh: 94 Rotten: 67
IMDB: 5.6 / 10
Director: Troy Nixey
Starring: Katie Holmes as Kim, Guy Pearce as Alex Hirst, Bailee Madison as Sally Hirst, Alan Dale as Jacoby, Jack Thompson as Harris, Emelia Burns as Caterer, Eddie Ritchard as Housekeeper, Nicholas Bell as Psychiatrist, James Mackay as Librarian
Shy, artistic 8-year-old Sally (Madison) moves across the country to live with her architect dad Alex (Pearce) and his designer girlfriend Kim (Holmes) in a massive old Rhode Island mansion. But she soon starts hearing strange noises, and after discovering a boarded-up basement studio, things start getting a bit freaky. But how can she convince her sceptical father and the stepmum she doesn't trust that there's something in the house that wants to tear the family apart? Even after the handyman (Thompson) is attacked, Alex continues his renovations so he can lure a buyer (Dale).
Essentially, this is a suspense-film formula with a claustrophobic point of view, as we identify with the increasingly isolated Sally. She sees what's going on, but Dad dismisses her warnings, and it's only the interloper Kim who slowly starts listening to her. Then Kim's dawning understanding allows us to get the full back-story, which we glimpsed in a brief gothic prologue.
In other words, this is masterful screenwriting, and Nixey directs the film with a sure hand. This enormous house is terrifying even full of people in broad daylight, so when it's empty at night the intensity is almost unbearable.
Especially since the menace only emerges in the dark. And the effects work is excellent, realistically woven into the fabric of the scenes as the filmmakers gradually let us see what the threat is.
The cast makes it even more authentic, with throwaway moments of humour, witty nods to scary movies and a quietly realistic exploration of the tensions between these three people as they try to form a family. The story is told in an economic way that never wastes a moment on screen or tries to shock us with a cheap jolt. Each set piece is part of the plot, so each jarring moment of terror gets deeply under our skin. And it'll make you pause for a second when you switch your lights off to go to sleep.