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Stars: Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne, Barbara Hershey, Lin Shaye, Leigh Whannell, Angus Sampson, Ty Simpkins

Director: James Wan

The first third of this chiller is actually quite scary, as Byrne, Wilson and their three kids move into a new house and things very soon start to go bump in the dark. They know they're in trouble when their oldest son, Dalton (Simpkins) tells them that 'I don't like it when he walks around at night'.

Figures flash across the background or appear at windows, the boy draws demonic pictures, and doors open and close of their own accord. 'Ghosts' are seen in the corners of rooms, and Dalton falls into a coma-like trance that baffles doctors. The paranormal activity even pursues them when they move home, and they discover it's not the house that's possessed but the child himself.

So far, so creepy, but when comic ghost hunters (Whannell, Sampson) and a sort-of medium to the other world (Shaye) become involved, the film falls apart, with talk of astral bodies, and nasty beings trying to cross over into our world; and the rest of the footage is more like a ride on a ghost train. And of course there's a twist at the end, but this final shock is too little and too late.

Wilson has a glazed look throughout all this, but a stick-like Byrne does her best as his wife. The rest, even Hershey as the hero's mother, verge on caricature.

David Quinlan

USA 2010. UK Distributor: Momentum. Colour by FotoKem.
106 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: U.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 2, Drugs 0, Swearing 1.

Review date: 26 Apr 2011