This so-so, occasionally effective horror film combines found-footage creepiness and haunted-house scares – but is stronger on mood than story. A believable Ethan Hawke gives it some grounding as Ellison, a struggling true-crime writer who moves into a suburban house notorious for an unsolved mass slaying. He immediately discovers a stock of 8mm movies which offer a distressingly vivid insight into the crime. Not sharing the news with the wife and kids proves an unwise decision, however, when things start going bump in the roof space. Soon he’s weighing professional priorities against the mental welfare and physical safety of his family.
All of which proves engrossing enough. Hawke pieces together the grisly visual evidence, while astute direction and effectively nuanced cinematography draw out telling unease from mundane interior spaces. Still, over-reliance on loud noises and Christopher Young’s over-used, over-emphatic score prove counter-productive. Also, revealing the house’s darkest secrets plays havoc with credibility – not least in a loopy final section which exposes the flakiness of the film’s ideas.