And I really wanted to like it more than I did. I like that while it relies on some horrible macabre 8 mm snuff films--showing the kind of elaborate executions inspired by the SAW series, with a bit less gratuitous creativity--it really creates the chills through atmosphere and a slowly revealing mystery (no surprise that the commercials tout the producer connection to PARANORMAL ACTIVITY.) But it also suffers from too many bad horror cliches. The hero is an idiot who is his own worst enemy. That would be Ellison (Ethan Hawke, doing a fine job playing a bad character,) a true-crime author who had a big hit 10 years ago and has been coasting on that ever since. He moves his family into a house where the previously family had been hung (dumb) but doesn't tell them (dumber) because he wants to research the crime but doesn't want to freak out his wife and kids (of course, they'll find out very quickly.) He finds rolls of 8 mm home movies in the attic with no explanation, all of which show ironically titled murders (e.g., "Family Hanging Out") but doesn't bring it to the cops (dumb, greedy, and illegal.) And when clearly supernatural things start happening he dismisses them and just continues to drink, watch the films, and freak himself out more.
Oh, and the soundtrack relies to heavily on "stingers" to make you jump. I freakin' hate that.
On the other hand, there is something in there to like. The unfolding paranormal mystery. The writer's obsession, getting lost in the details of a mystery you know is consuming you. And I liked the playing with multiple media. 8 mm film gets edited, crudely copied to digital (by playing the film and filming the screen with a digital camera.) In his depressed moments he watches old VHS tapes of his interviews from better days. More than anything, it made me think about the impending death of film, and unfortunately that scared me more than anything in this movie.
Running Time: 110 minutes
My Total Minutes: 300,367