Something evil is hiding in the bowels of an old, dark house. It feeds on human teeth and speaks in Dolby-intensified whispers. Could there [Gasp] be more than one it? Troy Nixey's sleek-'n'-polished remake of the 1973 telefilm of the same name establishes a suitably creepy atmosphere, especially in its gruesome early-20th-century prologue (a maid has her pearly whites chiseled from her gums by the house's mad-as-a-hatter owner). And there's a lot of promise in the subsequent present-day scenes, in which introverted young Sally Hurst (Madison) comes to live at the mansion with her divorced architect father, Alex (Pearce), and his new girlfriend, Kim (Holmes).
You can sense producer and cowriter Guillermo del Toro's hand in every shadowy nook and cranny, in every ominous whisper from the house's heating ducts. Initially, the horror trappings seem a mere pretext to explore Sally's sense of betrayal at the dissolution of her parents' marriage and the unspoken threat of this new mother figure. (Even the talking teddy bear Kim gives the ornery youngster takes on a vaguely menacing air.) Yet when the monsters finally show themselves, this potent theme is lost amid a lot of proficiently staged but insubstantial scare scenes---heavy on musical stingers and weightless CGI. Still, take note, all you Scientology schadenfreudists: The fate that befalls Mrs. Tom Cruise is more than worth the price of admission.
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