You’ve heard of property porn. What about housing horror?
The haunted house movie is the genre’s answer to Changing Rooms – every couple of years someone else tries to tart up the old wreck with a lick of paint.
After the Amityville Horror remake comes this based-on-a-true story ghost tale in which an over-mortgaged Everyfamily move into a fixer upper and discover its period features include ectoplasm-dripping ghouls.
Newbie director Peter Cornwell joins the dots between the clichés: shadows in mirrors, an eldest kid (Kyle Gallner) undergoing experimental cancer treatment (side effect: you may see dead people) and a title deed history that reveals that the clapboard house used to be a funeral home with a backroom sideline in séances.
“It’s just a house: bricks, nails and wood,” reckons dad (ex-Hal Hartley regular Martin Donovan), while mom (Virginia Madsen) contorts her face into a perma-grimace that suggests she’s either self-medicating or sniffing too many paint fumes.
Like all haunted house movies, this is more about the family than the building itself, a failing marriage and a teenager’s sense of his own mortality (nicely played by Gallner) capturing the mundane horror of a family in flux.
Despite its multiplex pitch, it promises edgy unease – washed-out, metallic-grey cinematography turning the New England landscapes into a perpetual autumn – then abandons it all in favour of ludicrous boo-jump shocks (demonic shower curtain, anyone?).
Maybe it’s time to foreclose on this subprime strand of haunted house horror.
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