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  1. Published on: 20/09/2018 11:49 AMReported by: Film Critic
    Plot: A young orphan gets taken in by his mysterious uncle in a house with dark and magical secrets.

    For a director who is known for making grindhouse horror's such as The Hostel and Cabin Fever to then make a family film is surely intriguing.

    I don't think I've ever thought Eli Roth has directed a good film yet. However, I have always seen the potential in them.

    So with the trailer showing that potential, I felt checking it out as this may be Roth's calling card to success.

    Early on, I was already seeing a mix of Goosebumps, Harry Potter and even Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children. The film is mainly set in this spooky house and the set designs were pretty good as well as the design of the costumes.

    The story and the development was interesting. But the pacing of it felt unbalanced and just felt ploddy. Also, the humor was a bit inconsistent. There is some fun and creative verbal digs between the main characters. However, there is some toilet humor that felt at times inappropriate and even took me out of the film.

    I noticed in the second half a lot of very scary moments. I admired the bold moves made in regards to the horror aspect. It reminded of the family horrors from the 80's and 90's that pushed the boundaries.

    For the rest of the film, I was seeing all the potential that could be explored. But every so often, I saw some mis-execution moments that just reminded me of every other Roth film and by the time credits rolled, I felt a little underwhelmed.

    The performances were a mixed bag for me. Owen Vaccaro was ok for the most part, but also failed to deliver in other parts. He just felt like a poor man's Jacob Tremblay who if you don't know is probably the top child actor right now. Sadly Vaccaro never stood out for me. There were also some awkward moments of over-acting as well.

    Jack Black and Cate Blanchett were the ones pulling this film along. Black is very capable of being in a kids film. He's always had those man-child qualities that fit nicely into family films, and he does more of the same here. Blanchett is always class and strolled through this with ease. It was not really a challenging role, never came out of first gear and was just a safe pair of hands. Together they had fun chemistry and brought out some laughs throughout. When the three main characters are together, I liked the family aspect that they had and one of the few things I was rooting for.

    It was nice seeing Kyle MacLachlan have a small role in this as I have not seen him in a film for quite some time. People will know him mainly from Showgirls and/or The Flintstones.

    As mentioned before, it has some nice imagination, lovely set and costume designs and solid visual effects from a practical and CGI aspect. That was certainly the films biggest strength.

    Also, I liked that Roth made great use of his history with horror. When it gets scary, it gets quite scary. I think young kids will be petrified by it. I'm almost 30, and even I felt it to be creepy, unsettling, shocking and could see why it was rated 12. If it was made in the 80's or 90's, I probably would not have questioned some of the dark content. But seeing that today was weirdly refreshing.

    However, there were few supposedly scary moments especially towards the end that felt just weird, strange and took me out of the film.

    While there was a healthy amount of positives, the negatives and frustration I had with it manages to out-weigh the positives.

    The pacing was weak and unbalanced. There did not feel any energy in its story-telling and it just plodded along. There was so much that could be explored with the house that our main characters were in. But it never fully utilised it.

    Also, some of the acting was questionable, especially by some of the kids. You might say that's harsh as they're just kids. But over the decades we have seen many amazing performances from child actors. So to me, there's no excuse for a bad or sub-par performance whatever age you are.

    In the end, I did feel somewhat disappointed by it. With a certain magical franchise still going strong, this one just lacks the wizardry and charm you expect these types of films to have. It has it in parts and shows great potential. But in the end, I left underwhelmed, disappointed and felt it to be a missed opportunity.

    On a positive note, I think some older kids in the 7-12 range will get a kick out of this as well as the parents. So I think it wouldn't do any harm for families to check this one out. Especially as its a nice little taster before the Halloween period.

    Rating: 6/10
     

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