Shortly after moving into their new home, strange things begin to happen to the Lambert family. Early on, their son falls into a mysterious coma and the activity just escalates from there. Eventually fleeing the house, the family finds that it is them – their son, in particular – that is haunted, not the house. Now, they must find a way to bring their son back and stop the evil that them in its sights.
The movie starts off somewhere between “Poltergeist” and “Paranormal Activity” – there’s enough weird stuff going on in the house, that a sort of unnamed dread grows, but it’s never quite enough to make you wonder why they don’t all run screaming out of there. Eventually learning that their son has been astrally projecting through his dreams and has wandered too far into the dark to find his way back turns the story on its head as the family is now forced to face the evil confronting them instead of trying to run away from it. Finally, a man must venture beyond the wall of sleep into the shadowy netherworld to save his son – and risk becoming lost in the shadows himself. All of these things work and work well. This is a scary movie that is big on dread and low on horror.
That the same courage that Josh (Patrick Wilson) taps into the save his son is what eventually leads to his undoing either works or doesn’t, depending upon how you look at it. Honestly, I’m not sure if I liked it or not. The fact that Josh was a “traveler” when he was young is either a pretty huge silver bullet or says a lot about the patience of the malevolent spirit that stalked him all those years ago. Deus ex machina resolutions always rub me the wrong way – it’s too convenient when the guy is trouble happens to be the best bet for getting out of that trouble. To other option is to believe that this spirit lay in wait for him all those years until it could get to him through his son. It again seems fortunate that his son also traveled in his dreams, but less far-fetched.
You’re either going to like this movie or not and it’s going to depend on how you look at the ending. The movie is creepy and well crafted (though poorly lit, seriously) and for the first half promises to be a great, creepy, tense plunge into the depths of shadowy night. The ending is ambivalent at best and goes too far in trying to explain itself, while still managing to not make itself clear. In a word, it’s jumbled.
Although there are better options out there, this one is worth watching with the lights out. There’s nothing here to hate and plenty to like, even if it does miss that “sweet spot”.