You don't have to be a genius to figure this one out. A family inherits the house of their late Uncle Cyrus, who had the uncanny hobby of capturing violent ghosts and storing them in his basement. The rest is pretty clear cut.
This remake of William Castle's 1960 classic horror film falls just short of the original, which is a shame, since the first one was pretty bad. Castle's saving grace was showmanship--he's famous for shocking his theater audiences with electricity. Rookie director Steve Beck relies on good art direction and a half-decent screenplay, but both lose steam by the movie's midpoint.
The film revolves around Arthur (Tony Shalhoub) who, after being widowed six months prior, tries to make ends meet for his son (Alec Roberts), teenage daughter (Shannon Elizabeth) and housekeeper (Rah Digga). The arrival of Cyrus' lawyer with news of the inheritance seems to be just what the family needs. A tour of the house quickly follows, but the family soon finds themselves trapped on a quest to free the trapped spirits, joined by Rafkin, the psychic comedy relief of the film, and Kalina, a "humanitarian."
As the story unfolds, the director fails to stir any feeling of sympathy for the family and their inevitable journey. With the exception of Arthur, the three come off as a pack of gold-diggers with no respect for their late uncle or the immediate creepiness of his house. The children spend most of their time touching everything that probably shouldn't be touched, constantly fuelling the audience's feeling of contempt for them. Before the carnage begins, Shannon Elizabeth tours the master bathroom and says, "we've struck gold!" The best part of the movie is wondering what's going to happen
The quick, subliminal flashes used for the ghost sequences are frightening for about five minutes until your mind tunes them out and the monotony creeps in. The final hour of the movie resembles a bad Scooby episode where the characters run down the same corridors, avoid the same ghosts and then run back the other way. The gore is impressive at times, but is sparse for a horror flick.
The one high point of the film is the house itself, made of shatterproof glass walls engraved with "containment spells" which ghosts cannot pass. This premise paves the way for a truly original set design, almost making up for the movie's many faults. Large machinery grinds away as walls continually shift and move, often either saving or condemning its occupants. Unfortunately, by the time you learn the true purpose of the house and its ghosts, you've lost interest and just want to go home.
Despite the eye candy, this movie doesn't break any new ground. The plot is old-hat and Beck's direction is loud and over-exaggerated. There are much better horror movies out there and, as for the art direction, it can wait for video.