If you've ever followed movie website "Ain't It Cool News" then there really is something quite cool about this flick--it was written by one of their own. No longer a contributor but back in the day you may remember a reviewer by the name of "Massawyrm", and if you don't then that's fine but it just goes to show that geeky entertainment writers can absolutely make it in the big leagues! I remember him discussing a horror script he said he was working on, that it wouldn't focus on blood, or gore but instead feature old-fashioned scares, and suspense; on that level I'd say he succeeded in following through with his plan, although with mixed results.
Ethan Hawke, who I find to always be very watchable, is pretty ideally cast here as Ellison Oswalt-- husband, father, and obsessive "true crime" writer. It's eluded to in the past that, when researching an upcoming project, he's moved his family into houses within very close proximity to where these actual crimes were committed, so that he can get a better feel for the material. With the latest re-location though, what he feigned to mentioned is that he's moved everyone into the actual crime scene of a family that was brutally, and mysteriously murdered years earlier. That worked out so well before for the Lutz family in 'The Amityville Horror'! Ellison soon finds a box of old Super 8 film strips in the attic, and being the curious fella that he is, decides to pour himself a stiff drink one night and give them a watch. Seemingly innocent collections of old family movies dating back to the 60's on the surface, what lies beneath is far more... sinister. I had to, shut up.
These family movies turn out to essentially be fairly disturbing, and convincing snuff films, which Ellison doesn't appear to be too upset over because I assume that, as a true crime writer, he's seen rough subject matter in the past. The investigator in him though simply wants to get to the bottom of this, to find out why these families all met their ends, and who may have been responsible. Honestly, a pretty cool premise that unfortunately, for me at least, falls apart and gets silly once the boogeyman is revealed, who I sh*t you not is actually referred to in the movie as "Mr. Boogie". I can't do it, I just can't! "Mr. Boogie"? Really? Total unintentional laughter anytime his name is seriously referred to as that in the film. It's disappointing because it mars what was a very creepy premise up to that point, and unfortunately the last third becomes ridiculous, and over the top.
Tone can be a difficult juggling act in horror, and this one ultimately drops most of the balls by the finish line although at least Ethan Hawke gives a very good performance overall, I'd say he makes it out relatively unscathed. It's a decent fright flick but it could have been much more.