Wildly over-praised by audiences desperate for a scary horror movie, this film has little more than the germ of a solid idea followed by a series of predictable cliches. It's a clever twist on the violent home-invasion scenario, fraught with family tensions and shifty characters. But the story develops without much sense of direction, and all of the scary bits are added in post-production through jolting editing and a freak-out sound mix.
It centres on a family gathering at a palatial summer home for the 35th anniversary of Paul and Aubrey (Moran and Crampton). All of their kids are here: Crispian (Bowen) is nervous about bringing his girlfriend (Vinson) to meet everyone, and his three siblings Felix, Aimee and Drake (Tucci, Swanberg and Seimetz) have also arrived with their respective partners (Glenn, Myers and West). The usual arguments are re-ignited at their first meal together, but they're quickly interrupted by a bigger problem: someone shoots an arrow through a window and begins picking them off one by one. As they are forced to work together, Erin rises to the challenge, leading the defence against the invaders.
The set-up is fairly simplistic, as the family members all have a sense of dread about this gathering, knowing that it's going to be tense. Then the fiendishly efficient attackers arrive, dressed like ninjas with animal masks, well-armed with knives, machetes, hatchets and cross-bows, plus booby traps to make the house itself a killing machine. None of this is very plausible, frankly. The actors aren't quite up to the challenge of making us believe the inter-relationships, and the plot is deeply contrived. The filmmakers seem determined to make a film without a single gun, which is intriguing until people pick up a tiny steak-knife to defend themselves when the handy baseball bat would be a lot more effective.
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But 1985's cult classic Re-Animator launched this return to Lovecraft's work, and if later filmmakers had learned anything from Stuart Gordon and Brian Yuzna's horror masterpiece, they would have assured old H.P. a much stronger legacy.
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