“Beware the film of Mary Shaw’s; it had no scares, only flaws.”
After Jamie Ashen (Ryan Kwanten) receives a mysterious ventriloquist’s dummy in an unmarked package, his wife dies under even more mysterious circumstances with only an old town legend left for a clue. With a police detective (Donnie Wahlberg) watching his every move with the intent of charging him with his wife’s murder, Jamie returns to the small town of his birth to try and unravel the truth behind the legend. Why? Because in these films, the legends are always true.
While the premise sounded interesting, the artsy style of filmmaking shown on screen muddles an already shaky plot. Characters and settings seem to spring up at the whim of the director with no explanation, only exposition. Want examples? Mourners who appear for a funeral then conveniently skip town for the rest of the film, a huge theater house in the middle of nowhere that supposedly was built for the elite of a one stoplight town, and don’t get me started on the convenient props left around like some kind of video game (Look, a moat! Here, a boat!) It’s as if the film was made up as it went along and cut together in the editing room by people who weren’t at the shoot and never read a script.
Although extreme care was taken to stage elaborate signature effects like falling into a printed map to see a real car snaking down the road, characters are all introduced as a one-dimensional constructs scripted to do only their part and die. In fact, the wife who died at the beginning was probably the only interesting or complete character in the entire movie; you learned who she was, what she wanted, and even saw a flash of a twisted sense of humor. The main character, Jamie, is hardly ever seen, even when he’s in the scene, because we’re always looking from his point of view. If the intent was to make us feel as though the viewer was the main character, I would like to think that we would have made plenty of different choices.
By the film’s end, it’s clear that filmmakers had a glimmer of a neat idea but either too little time to develop it or no one wanted to pay for script drafts with all the good ideas (yes, that can happen, folks). How is it that the effects and mood was good but the story and characters were so bland? And this was from the people that made the Saw series a success? There is a very large ball someplace in Hollywood, and whoever dropped it needs to be rolled over with it a few times. If you’re going to drop this kind of cash on a scary movie, you’re going to need more than your built-in horror fan base to cover costs, and even the most general audiences are (fortunately) smarter than this.
(a half a skull recommendation out of four)