A new Joe Dante movie is something to be celebrated -- the man has delivered close to a dozen classics near and dear to filmdom, many of them catered to family-friendly audiences. For his first theatrical release since 2003’s Looney Tunes: Back in Action, he went with what seemed to be a picture right up his alley: A single mom and her two sons move into a house with a strange hole in the basement that brings out your worst fears…all filmed in 3D. Since Dante is a major B-movie obsessive, the idea of him working in a schlocky three-dimensional playpen only makes sense. Sadly, the picture is just too mild for its own good.
Chris Massoglia and Nathan Gamble head up the cast as two brothers who move to a small town with their mom (Teri Polo), only to find that their new house isn’t what it seems, for deep in their basement lies a locked-up hole that doesn’t lead anywhere. Soon, the two boys and their next-door neighbor Julie (Haley Bennett) are terrorized by their worst fears, and it appears that the nightmares are coming from the deep, dark hole.
Right out of the gate, Massoglia fails to impress as the lead. The young actor mumbles his way through uninspired dialogue penned by Mark L. Smith (the writer of Vacancy and Vacancy 2: The First Cut), who has taken the usual horror-movie tropes (evil clowns and ghost children) and used them to frighten some rather generic young characters. Although the finale’s visuals are kind of a kick, one would expect a lot more heart, humor, and horror with Dante. The picture’s low budget doesn’t help either, as much of the film simply comes off more like an episode of Goosebumps, which is a sizable step down for a director of such stature. Hardcore fans will howl at a cameo by Dante regular Dick Miller, but his two seconds of screen time might just be the best thing in this disappointing release.
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