The Awakening (2011, Nick Murphy)
In 1920s London, Florence Cathcart goes about exposing hoaxes and debunking paranormal phenomena. She's called to a country boarding school to do her thing, but what if, this time, the hoaxes are real? Meaning, you know, they're not hoaxes...they're ghosts.
Two sentences: Rebecca Hall is terrific as the arrogant Florence Cathcart, and there's atmosphere to spare throughout the empty rooms of the enormous boarding school. Ultimately, though, the film collapses in the final act as writer/director Murphy feels the need to explain everything in painstaking detail.
The verdict: Worth a watch, but bear in mind that The Awakening is more of a drama with some horror sprinkled in than a straight-up fright fest.
The Skeleton Key (2005, Iain Softley)
"She mustn't find out that I've been listening to 'Dear Mr. Jesus' again!"
Hospice nurse Caroline Ellis (Kate Hudson) takes a job at a mansion in the backwater swampland of Louisiana to care for an elderly gentleman, hoodoo hijinks ensue.
Two sentences: I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this film, as it wasn't the CGI-n-jump-scare-laden crapfest I was anticipating. It's not the best thing ever and it's more plot-driven than character-driven, but as I said when discussing it on the Final Girl Facebook page: if you can't appreciate a homicidal, shotgun-wielding Gena Rowlands chasing Kate Hudson through a swamp during a thunderstorm, then what's the point of anything?
The verdict: Try it, you might like it!
Munger Road (2011, Nicholas Smith)
Some jerk teenagers go looking for paranormal activity on the reputedly haunted Munger Road. Meanwhile, Sheriff Bruce Davison patrols the town looking for an escapee from a nearby mental hospital.
Two sentences: Get out your pencils, kids, it's math time. (Halloween + Fingerprints) x ("based on true events") / Are you fucking kidding me with that ending? = Munger Road
The verdict: No no no go fuck yourself no get out of my face no NO.
Don't Be Afraid of the Dark (2010, Troy Nixey)
Two sentences: I (sadly) wasn't all that enamored with the original 1973 made-for-TV film and I thought it could benefit from a remake. Though this one is awfully computer, it's overall enjoyable and the creatures are suitably vicious and nasty.
The verdict: Another "Hey, I thought that was going to be terrible and it wasn't!" flick. And say what you will about Katie Holmes, she certainly has very nice hair. But why don't they call it Do Be Afraid of the Dark? The dark is where all the bad shit happens!
Lovely Molly (2011, Eduardo Sanchez)
Newlyweds Molly and Tim move into Molly's childhood home and she soon finds herself haunted...but is it all in her mind?
Two sentences: The DVD cover is a Photoshop turd, but Sanchez's Blair Witch Project pedigree led me to giving this one a go and I'm glad I did. Questions may ultimately go unanswered, but the ride is terrifically creepy and Gretchen Lodge is fantastic as the tortured Molly.
The verdict: Yes, yes, a thousand times yes, I really dug this underrated little gem. It'll certainly benefit from multiple viewings as there's a lot to absorb. And lawd-a-mighty, it may be a small touch, but I especially love that it features characters who are regular people working real regular jobs, not movie regular jobs, you know?