I apologize, I’m one of the idiots who’ll make shitty horror movies like The Haunting in ConnectiSHIT profitable, and thus promise a new batch next year. My sister wanted to see it, and since my best friend and girlfriend are both pussies and don’t like scary movies, I went to see it with her. And I assure you, you are better off watching the trailer 20 times and saving your ten bucks.
As usual, the trailer has all the decent stuff, leaving the other 90 minutes very lacking. It is very loosely based on an episode of the Discovery Channel “Haunting” series, which was based on stories of people who lived in a haunted mortuary. So it’s as “based on a true story” as Disney’s Pocahontas was, including the talking raccoons. We meet mother Sarah Campbell (Virginia Madsen) as she drives her son Matt home from a long journey to the cancer clinic. Matt (Kyle Gallner) has unspecified terminal cancer, and gets sick on the long trips to and from the clinic where he is getting experimental treatment, so his mom wants to move closer. This leads her to a bargain house rental, a dingy and dilapidated house that the landlord says “has a history.” She takes it.
The problem is that almost immediately, enough weird shit starts happening that there’s very little build-up. A side effect of Matt’s treatment is possible hallucinations, but he doesn’t want to tell the doctor, in case he gets taken off the meds. He gets MRIs and radiation, but some magic treatment that lets him keep his hair, in 1987. He’s afraid to tell his mom about the visions- pallid people in the corners, blood on the floors, faces in the window of the locked basement room he chooses as a bedroom. But he behaves strangely enough that any sane parent would know something is wrong.
The movie is played completely straight, and the drama is layed on thick. After all, it’s about a kid with cancer who gets haunted by evil apparitions. And his Dad is an alcoholic, too. It’s like an angsty goth kid’s wet dream, and Matt has a grim attitude befitting a Tim Burton protagonist, without any of the style. Soon Matt is sleepwalking and opens the secret room next to his bed, finding a disused mortuary. “I guess that’s why it was a bargain.” But of course, they don’t move out. And soon Matt begins feeling possessed by a presence that lurks in the house, and sees the horrific rites that were performed on the mortician’s table- bodies scored with mystic symbols, their eyelids snipped, the bodies wrapped like mummies.
There are other kids in the house, but it’s unclear who’s brother to who. A little boy and girl exist to play hide and seek in the spooky house, and cousin Wendy (Amanda Crew, Sex Drive) is there to be a girl. Crew is one of the few memorable actors, though she isn’t given much to do. One day during hide and seek, they find a box of photographs and pages tucked in the floorboards, and some grim souvenirs from the dead. Wendy decides to research it at the library, and learns the house’s dark history- not only was it a mortician’s workplace, but the man was also a medium- and held seances with a boy named Jonah, who was supposed to have a strong connection with the dead. Then one night they all died of “unknown causes” during a seance.
We see photos of ectoplasm and memento mori– photos of the dead- to creep us out, but it doesn’t really work much. After the first 30 minutes of creepiness, the wad has been shot and the rest of the scares are silly or derivative. I can’t believe I’ve written about it this long; it’s only 90 minutes, but felt like 2 hours. Because there’s more- Matt meets Reverend Popescu (Elias Koteas) at the cancer clinic, who is more of a paranormal researcher than a religious figure. He comes to the house and finds evil in it, and tries to exorcise it. Mysteries are revealed! There are evil ghosts and good ghosts, and damn it’s starting to sound like an anime or some crap a kid daydreamed up. Matt’s cancer gets worse, and he decides to exorcise the house in his own way.
And sorry to ruin it for you, but the ghosts cure Matt’s cancer. I’m not kidding. The script, such as it is, is written by two guys whose last collaboration was that Snoop Dogg horror flick Bones, and a first-time director. It’s a tedious film that you’ll be begging to end, with no one to care about. It’s tough to have a cancer kid in a movie and make him be unsympathetic, but Matt is such a typical teen douche that I found myself wishing he’d get complications.
1 jump scare out of 5