Josh and Renai (Wilson and Byrne) have just moved into their new home when strange things start happening. They can explain away bizarre sounds and eerie events, but doctors are baffled when their son Dalton (Simpkins) inexplicably lapses into a perpetual coma. Soon the noises and visions so freak out Renai that she begs Josh to move again. But things get even more terrifying in the new house. So Josh's understanding mother (Hershey) suggests they contact a team of ghostbusters (Shay, Whannell and Sampson), as crazy as that sounds.
Director Wan is overconfident from the start, with an auteur credit during the ominous opening credits, which climax on a cacophonous jangling chord as the title appears in massive red letters. But this cleverly sets the tone for what's coming, as he plays with haunted house cliches, subverting our expectations and quietly twisting every scene in unexpected directions. Once we get on track, the film starts to feel a little dull, so he shakes it up again.
And this continues right to the final frame.
It helps that Wilson and Byrne are able to inject their characters with a complexity that makes their reactions unsettling and realistic. We're right with them on this frightening journey, although the fact that they are so central means that an amazing actor like Hershey is relegated to the sidelines.
Shaye has a few more meaty-wacky scenes to play with, and Whannell and Sampson provide terrific comedy subtext.
This is hugely effective for horror movie fans who can't remember the last time a filmmaker actually gave us the chills. Wan and writer Whannell continually catch us off guard, generating entertaining pangs of terror as we wonder what might happen next. And even if the final sequence is the film's least-scary section, it's still rather cool, with a warped sense of humour in the way it's designed and staged. And no, I won't describe it in any more detail than that.
Run time: 103 mins
In Theaters: Friday 1st April 2011
Box Office USA: $54.0M
Box Office Worldwide: $97M
Distributed by: FilmDistrict
Production compaines: Stage 6 Films, Alliance Films, IM Global, Haunted Movies
Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 66%
Fresh: 109 Rotten: 56
IMDB: 6.8 / 10
Director: James Wan
Screenwriter: Leigh Whannell
Starring: Patrick Wilson as Josh Lambert, Rose Byrne as Renai Lambert, Barbara Hershey as Lorraine Lambert, Leigh Whannell as Specs, Angus Sampson as Tucker, Ty Simpkins as Dalton Lambert, Lin Shaye as Elise Rainier, Andrew Astor as Foster Lambert
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