About a century ago this isolated mansion house in the countryside was inhabited by one Mr Blackwood (Garry McDonald), who one night called his maid (Eddie Ritchard) down to the basement where he was working. She crept through the door with a candle to light her way, therefore could not see where her employer was down there in the dark, nor could she see the tripwire stretched across one of the stairs which sent her tumbling to the ground, whereupon Blackwood leapt on top of her. He was brandishing a hammer and chisel, muttering about needing her teeth...
The prologue to this remake of a 1974 television movie, a notable part of the heyday of the American TV horror film, was admittedly arresting, culminating as it did with the revelation that something was living down in a pit beneath the house, it was just a shame the rest of it opened itself up to so much criticism. Certainly director Troy Nixey and his team made the effort to create something which looked the part, but perhaps the problem was with the man who instigated the project in the first place, that huge fan of the original Guillermo del Toro who wanted to give contemporary audiences the same thrill he had enjoyed back in the seventies, watching this as a boy.
It didn't quite work out that way; call the modern audience far more savvy, but lingering questions were raised about precisely what was supposed to be going on which you would imagine should have been explained away by the aims towards a nightmare texture to proceedings, but simply turned a lot of people off for what they saw as an idea not thought through. In the source, it was a young married couple who were at the centre of the trouble, this time it was a family which true to the times consisted of a divorced dad, Alex (Guy Pearce), his new girlfriend Kim (Katie Holmes), and what turned out to be the main character, his daughter Sally (Bailee Madison) who in predictable form nobody believes.
Well, what would you say if your child was seeing little goblins out of the corner of her eye when she tried to get to sleep at night? On the other hand, the evidence for a presence actually existing there appeared to be overwhelming to those of us watching, which made the grown-ups' insistence that nothing freaky was going on look less like denial and more like outright stupidity. For a start, there's the workman Harris (the venerable Australian character actor Jack Thompson - Australia was where this was shot) who encounters the critters in the basement and ends up shall we say the worse for wear, bloody, battered and half conscious. Any ordinary person might have considered there was something amiss, but not Alex and Kim.
At least they could have brokered the idea that they had an infestation of rats, yet not even that is brought up, so you can see why the audience grew so frustrated with the characters. Eventually, of course they do catch on, but it takes an interminable amount of waiting for them to reach that level of awareness as Nixey's roving camera prowls the corridors and rooms of the mansion for the umpteenth time. To the film's credit, there was no cop out ending, and that at least felt more like a horror movie from the seventies than the rest of it had, but del Toro (who co-wrote the script) and his insistence on penning his chillers from a child's point of view was beginning to wear thin, one trip to that hackneyed well too many. As for the goblins, they were naturally CGI creations and looked it, though represented a decent enough foe if you were willing to forget the more formidable Gremlins of the eighties which they owed some latter day debt to. Music by Marco Beltrami and Buck Sanders.