American World Pictures // 2009 // 98 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // September 30th, 2011
Think you're alone? Think again!
A recently traumatized married couple attempts to get their lives back on track by moving into the Beacon Apartments, which are nice and charming but also inhabited by terrifying ghosts. Bryn (Teri Polo, Meet the Parents) and her husband Paul (David Rees Snell, The Shield) are mourning the death of their four year-old son, and their marital repair job runs into a major snag when strange apparitions of a spectral boy begin appearing.
At first panicked, Bryn eventually considers utilizing this ghost as a messenger, to get word to her lost son. To do this, she will have to free the boy from his haunted prison. And to do that, she'll have to dig up the circumstances of the boy's death, which doesn't end up being a terribly great idea.
I feel like I just watched this movie. Maybe that's just because nearly all ghost stories traffic in similar conventions: jump scares usually involving juvenile entities (what is so scary about ghost kids?!), a strung-out heroine that no one believes, a deeper mystery that is never quite as cool as its made out to be, and a twist ending. All these ingredients can be found in Haunting at the Beacon, a so-so supernatural thriller that's powered more by its handling of parental grief than genuine chills.
Not that writer/director Michael Stokes doesn't try to give you the willies. He employs the handy jump scare to mixed results; the first time the weird-looking boy shows up, there might be a startle in it for you. The next couple of times? Not so much. The closest Haunting at the Beacon got to legitimately making me uncomfortable was Bryn's trip to a murderer's apartment, which was decorated with scissors. You had to be there, I guess.
As the movie wore on, I found Bryn and Paul's relationship a little more interesting than the whodunit. Teri Polo does a good job as a desperate, strung-out mom who can't get past her son's death. Paul is largely her sounding board, so it's not a fantastically deep role for Snell -- and as an actor he's fairly monotone. But The Shield is one of my favorite shows of all time, so I'm happy whenever an alum can get work.
All told, Haunting at the Beacon is a sub-mediocre to mediocre ghost tale, elevated somewhat from solid work by Polo and a decent little twist ending.
The DVD: 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, two 5.1 tracks (Dolby and DTS), and a director's commentary.
Guilty of not quite being good enough to merit further consideration.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: American World Pictures
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* DTS 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 98 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Not Rated