Welllllll, Rotten Tomatoes might not have anything nice to say about this movie, but I do. While I'll side with the aforementioned site that the movie relies on a lot of old horror film tricks to elicit most of it's scares, there's a good story with good actors beneath that.
Long story short; family is falling apart. Former alcoholic and bad dad-gone straight is working long hours at the construction site to try and pay for not just the regular bills, but his son's cancer treatment, which can only be done at a hospital hours and hours away. For awhile, the mom is content with driving the son to each appointment, but as he gets sicker, it becomes apparent they'll be needing to get something a little closer to the hospital. Mom makes an executive decision and picks up a house that's too good to be true - spacious, beautiful, heck - the first month's rent is even FREE! Right away, they start in with the reflections of ghosts and shadows in mirrors and stuff that stutters at the edge of your sight.
The boy with cancer, who's name escapes me at the moment, is having a harder time coming to grips with the house because mostly only he can see the spirits plaguing it. That's because, of course, he's closer to dying than the rest of the family - the cancer is spreading rapidly throughout his body, and as it does, the line between living and death fuzzes for him. The house starts to give up it's secrets - that once, it was a mortuary. That the man who owned the mortuary held midnight seances. That he had found himself a boy who was quite good at communicating with the dead. Finally, that they were performing rituals that would super-amplify the boy's 'talents'. You learn this through a series of hallucinations and missteps, like mom spring cleaning and stumbling across pictures of people who had passed on, someone falls through a rotten hole in the floor revealing more pictures, this time of that young medium from the past releasing butt loads of 'ectoplasm'.
This is one of those films that try to get you to jump out of your seat, and if I were going to judge off the viewing I had today with my wife, I'd say it worked on her about 70% of the time, 45% of the time on me. What spoke to me in the movie was lead actor Kyle Gallner's unbelievably good performance as a young teen struggling with the truth about his own mortality and the evil confronting him. There's a time period within the movie where you can't really be sure if the house is haunted or if it's just the trial medication they have Kyle on... and he plays that situation very well. Overall, the fear does feel very real and the questions that were, for me, left unanswered, I can't really discuss here without spoiling any of the movie for you.
On the flip side, there was at least a half a dozen plot points stolen from other movies, sure. I mean, house built on top of and/or filled with dead bodies = Polterguist. Boy sees dead people = sixth sense. A lot of the fleeting, static spirit manifestation around the edges of the picture, hiding within the darkness actually reminded me of one of my favorite horror films, literally 'The Darkness'. Still, you can't make a movie today without biting/ripping off/'paying homage to' at least a few other movies. Also, for those like me who like to call bullshit when movie makes say 'Based on a True Story', here's a sample slice of where they got their source material.
One thing though - Sam Rami's new movie was one of the trailers. I can't say enough how excited I am about THAT movie. With a name like 'Drag Me To Hell', I really don't believe there's any way you can screw up.