Director: Troy Nixey
Writers: Guillermo del Toro, Matthew Robbins, Nigel McKeand
Cast: Bailee Madison, Katie Holmes, Guy Pearce, Jack Thompson, Julia Blake
SYNOPSIS: A girl sent to live with her father and his girlfriend at an old estate during renovation discovers strange light-sensitive creatures that want to steal her away to their underground home.
REVIEW: Troy Nixey, writer, producer and director of Latchkey's Lament, takes the reins of a story from Guillermo del Toro and Matthew Robbins based on the 1973 teleplay written by Nigel McKeand. Nixey and the creative force of del Toro and Robbins make key changes to the original television movie that work better on the big screen without sacrifice the heart of the 1973 story.
In the original television movie, young couple Sally and Alex Farnham inherit an old mansion where whispering demon-like creatures chip away at Sally's sanity and the couple's relationship. In the revised del Toro story, the young couple is replaced with a divorced architect father Alex (Guy Pearce), his interior designer girlfriend Kim (Katie Holmes) and Alex's daughter Sally (Bailee Madison). While Alex and Kim renovate the old Blackwood estate in hopes of having the house appear on the over of an architectural magazine, young Sally explores the gardens and rooms. To the chagrin of contractor Mr. Harris, Sally finds the hidden basement studio of the long-missing Mr. Blackwood and starts hearing whispering voices behind the bolted shut ash chute.
Classic to del Toro's style, it is a child that the story centers around. Bailee Madison, a young veteran actress from Brothers and Just Go With It, allows the tension to mount quicker and wind tighter. Her innocence opens the bolts clamping down the ash chute cover, freeing the creatures that only want to claim her as one of her own. In the scene where Sally explores the gardens around the estate with pollen and petals swirling in the air, you can not help but compare it to the magical world of Pan's Labyrinth. Bailee Madison's superb acting drives the film forward, every gasp and startle crucial to the story. Katie Holmes stars as Sally's dad's girlfriend, desperate to win the affection of his boyfriend's child early in the film, then desperate to help Sally as she fears for her life against the whispering, greedy creatures.
The other stars of the film are the tooth craving denizens of the world under the ash chute. Imagine a sea of deformed, scissor and razor blade wielding faeries, capable of rivaling the brutality of the Zuni Fetish doll made so popular by Karen Black and Trilogy of Terror.
The story is satisfying, the updates appropriate, and the tension palatable. A worthy successor to the original early 70s 'Movie of the Week' entry, this film is a fun, scary, startling popcorn fest. Fans of del Toro will enjoy this update and fans of the genre will appreciate what Nixoy, del Toro and Robbins put on screen.