In horror movies, parents who adopt a kid inevitably wind up with either the anti-Christ or a homicidal maniac. In the real world, I don’t think anyone would allow a mother (Vera Farmiga) who’s a recovering alcoholic or a philandering dad (Peter Sarsgaard) like the ones in this “stink bomb” to take in an “adolescent” Russian girl (Isabelle Fuhrman) even if she does happen to be a sociopath. I also don’t think that any adult with half a brain is going to be as clueless as Sarsgaard’s (GARDEN STATE) film father who can’t make the connection between the arrival of his foster child and the sudden spate of disasters occurring around him and his family. Chalk him up as yet another victim whose stupidity gets him killed in a horror movie. In fact, just about every genre convention is here including the abrupt, invasive musical interludes designed to induce fear and the “jump out and yell boo” devices like the closing of a medicine cabinet mirror or children suddenly screaming for no apparent reason except for cheap audience manipulation. What’s missing is any real sense of believing that any of this could actually happen which is a key component of successful horror movies. It certainly isn’t helped by an implausible concluding “twist” (Warning Will Robinson … big-time plot spoiler ahead) where Fuhrman turns out to be a mentally disturbed 31-year-old dwarf with a pituitary problem (Oh, those tricky Russians!) You know that when a movie geared to scare the crap out of you has you laughing at its unintentionally funny plot development and structure that it’s a total misfire. I read where some adoption agencies are worried that this film could scare off potential foster families from taking in orphaned children. They needn’t worry because this is one horror show that isn’t going to scare anybody.
MOVIES TO WATCH FOR IN AUGUST: G.I. JOE: THE RISE OF COBRA (August 7), JULIE & JULIA (August 7), A PERFECT GETAWAY (August 7), SHORTS (August 7), DISTRICT 9 (August 14), THE GOODS: LIVE HARD, SELL HARD (August 14), THE TIME TRAVELER’S WIFE (August 14), INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS (August 21), THE BOAT THAT ROCKED (August 28)