Release Date: December 25, 2004
Runtime: 102 minutes
Studio: Dimension Films (Miramax)
Director: Jaume Balaguero
Cast: Anna Paquin; Lena Olin; Iain Glen; Giancarlo Giannini
Oh boy, is this ever a mess of a movie. Basically, the story of a young girl and her family who move into a creepy old house in the Spanish countryside. Weird things start happening.
This is the kind of movie which, if you came home late at night, drunk, and it was on, you’d probably watch the first fifteen or so minutes, enticed by the eerie atmospherics. But chances are, after those initial fifteen minutes, you’d be sleeping. This movie is so dull, the writing is so juvenile, and the pace so languorous, that it should really come with a warning: “May cause drowsiness.” The actors, in their defense, are not the ones at fault here. They are clearly misdirected. They are forced to shout just about all of their lines at the top of their lungs, and the dialogue they are required to speak doesn’t help them out at all in the believability department. For example: the father character (Iain Glen) tries to pull a “Here’s Johnny!” moment to frighten his family, barricaded on the other side of a door. His words of menace…”Open the freakin’ door!” He says it twice! How terrifying. Another example: towards the end of the movie, the Giancarlo Giannini character has Regina (Anna Paquin) tied to a chair, explaining the strange events of the movie. His dialogue…”Darkness is very wise. Darkness knows a great deal.” Huh?? Whatever. At that point, I wish he’d have just killed her already and been done with it so that the movie would be over. Plus, that would be more exciting than anything that had gone before.
More problems besides dialogue: 1) The movie takes place in Spain, yet the electrician who comes to look at the house looks and sounds like he’s from Brooklyn; 2) “Darkness” is right…there is nothing above a 60-watt bulb in the whole movie; 3) Towards the end, during the “climactic” (using that term very loosely) scene, the director overuses the good ol’ shaky-cam technique. Why? Is there an earthquake going on that we don’t know about?; 4) The movie wants us to assume that the main characters here are a modern, present-day family, yet, there is not one television on display (until the movie is almost over when someone finally turns one on) and all communication is via radio, newspaper clippings and drawings. That’s all well and good…if your movie is set in the 1930’s, but it’s not exactly normal for a 21st century family.
Overall, this is one of those movies where, after watching it, the only thing that comes to your mind is: Well, at least everyone involved got an all expenses paid trip to Spain.