Demonic James Wan, of the Saw and Insidious movies, is the latest director to earn possessory credits on side-productions, following Wes Craven and Clive Barker in extending the umbrella of patronage to a less name-brand horror director. This was directed by Will Canon (Brotherhood), from a script Canon devised with Max La Bella and Doug Simon, and is a catch-all of recent horror styles – a haunted house/mass murder/demonic possession drama, with police procedural and found footage elements. It’s among a number of films in which the finding of footage is a part of the plot and so, as cop Mark Lewis (Frank Grillo) and his shrink girlfriend Dr Klein (Maria Bello) investigate some mystery deaths in a house which was the site decades earlier of a similar rash of slayings, they also get to pore over the footage taken by obnoxious director wannabe Bryan (Scott Mechlowicz) as he nudges handsome plank John (Dustin Milligan), son of the survivor of the earlier massacre, and his girlfriend Michelle (Cody Horn) into a séance in the old house in order to capture paraphenomena digitally.
The back-and-forth between the investigation and the evening-which-went wrong is made even more complicated in that the killings are a re-enactment of the earlier massacre and there are mysteries involving John’s mother and the credited previous killer which have to be solved, not to mention a tricksky bit of misdirection as to who is wearing the glasses-cam on which the axe-slayings have been recorded. It has an odd, beginner’s screenwriting habit of having random characters be well-up on historical architecture so they can explain what the porch gaslamp is for and what a milk-chute was in order to set up horror moments involving these features, while the kids still need to have parapsychology stuff which everyone who’s seen a movie ghost story knows off by heart explained to them.
Grillo and Bello get top billing and bring gravitas to roles that are strictly beneath their talents – the cop and the psychologist, who are incidentally in a relationship and have to call off a date to poke around the crime scene, aren’t really involved in the meat of the movie, which takes place earlier in the evening and is stuck with good-looking actors playing a bunch of fairly rote, annoying kids. Megan Park is the token sexy new agey blonde believer while Aaron Yoo is yet another Asian techie nerd who gets killed early on. These are all folks we’ve seen before – and in the case of the needlessly assholish Bryan, who is the heroine’s ex-girlfriend and takes every opportunity to snipe at John, have long since lost patience with. The actual plot nugget in the heart of the chinese boxes is that a demon needs to inhabit the innocent sole survivor of a massacre in order to stick around the mortal plane – as soon as it’s mentioned that Michelle is pregnant, suspense as to how it’ll manage the trick is out the window.