There are so many things wrong with this movie that it amazes us that Guillermo Del Toro's name is anywhere near it. Not only did he produce it, but he wrote the screenplay? Baffling, because Del Toro is a craftsman with narrative, and the script here is full of plot devices and plot holes galore. It just a weak, weak movie.
*A Quick note on Guillermo Del Toro- For those of you not familiar with who he is, you need to be. Above all else, the guy seems like one of the sweetest, most genuinely kind people on the planet. He's also a massive film geek, which coupled with his kind sensibilities has allowed him to make some breathtaking, creepy, and emotionally powerful movies. He really is one of the best directors working today, along with names like Fincher, Wook Park, Tarantino, Nolan, Jackson, Boyle, among others, instantly demands an audiences respect and at least their curiosity. Seek out Pan's Labyrinth, and experience his talent the way it should be. Don't let this movie represent his level of talent or storytelling ability.
If you haven't seen the original 1970's made for TV movie which this version was remade from, it's basically the story of a family that moves into a gorgeous old mansion with a troubled past. It has a secret basement you see, one that has been sealed of for many years, and for good reason; there's pretty much a tunnel to hell in the furnace, which is home to hundreds of evil, hungry little imp-things.
The family is made up of Dad, whom is clueless about pretty much everything, including how to be a Dad; daughter, whom is bratty and annoying; and step-mom, whom is the least annoying of them all. Strange things begin to happen, and it eventually becomes apparent that there's something "wrong" with the house...
Beautifully shot and fairly atmospheric, it's sad to see that this movie dropped the ball in so many ways. First and foremost are the plot holes.
When the creepy old handy man wanders into the basement, he's attacked by dozens of the little monsters who stab him repeatedly with various tools and sharp implements, leave scissors stuck in his neck and a screwdriver jutting out of his head, and it's explained as an "accident?" No one panics, no one asks what type of accident leaves a strong, huge man full of more holes than a pincushion, and above all else, no one leaves.
The scene where the little girl is taking a bath felt odd too. She draws the shower curtain around her tub, which felt like it only served to make a tense scene of "things" poking at the shower curtain. I know she's a kid, and kids do odd things all the time, but who pulls the curtain closed during a bath?
Even when the daughter is attacked in the library during a dinner party, which leaves a dead monster corpse and arm (I think I remember an arm) laying on the floor, no one does anything sensible. "Something odd is going on here..." No shit, jerk nut. How about leave the house? But of course they don't. The ending is as lame as what preceded it as well; I wont spoil it for you here, but I will say "Come on, Guillermo! Just come on, man!"
It all just felt forced and convenient, and not much of it rang true. The opening scene was interesting. Visually, the movie is gorgeous. The whispers of the creatures work pretty well when you can decipher them. Aside from those few positives though, the rest is tedious, cheesy, and not creepy at all.
I'm going to take some flack for this next part.
The worst part of the whole thing, which for me made it all the more unbearable, was Bailee Madison. I know she's a kid, and I'm not in the habit of insulting little children, even when they have it coming, but for Christ's sake is she unbearable. To behold her on screen is about as pleasant as chewing tin foil, or maybe or dragging metal wire across a chalk board... She comes off as pretentious and fake to us, and it's impossible for us to find her compelling in the least bit. With or without her, the movie is still a clinker, though we honestly believe that with another kid in the movie -one who could act convincingly, and is actually cute- it may have softened the blow a bit.
As for the rest of the cast, Guy Pierce, who is usually amazing, pretty much phoned it in here. Oddly enough, the best actor in this mess was Katie Holmes. She's mostly famous for marrying the high priest of the Xenu Church, but she's actually decent here, and manages to make her character worth half a damn, which is more than we can say for the other two leads.
The Master Says- D We will never fully understand how this movie, in the hands of one of the best filmmakers of our time, went so bad, and in so many ways. Were it not for the quality of the visuals, we'd DO NOT WANT this one in a hot second. As it stands though, it's a pretty movie, with hollow, contrived insides, that manages to frustrate instead of scare. Seek out the original 1970's version, which for being a TV movie, was pretty damned creepy. We adore you, Guillermo, but this one we just can't love at all.
Final Thoughts- Katie Holmes is still pretty cute, though we miss the old school version of her; you know, before the whole uncomfortably creepy marriage thing. *FYI, we still like Tom Cruise, even with his crazy and all.