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Friday, August 8, 2014

THE MARSH -- movie review by porfle

(This review originally appeared online at in 2007.)

You know how nerve-wracking it is when you think you're alone and someone sneaks up from behind and grabs you? THE MARSH (2006) loves to do that. It does it so frequently, in fact, that you begin to expect it and the effect is diminished, although every once in a while your guard is down and it grabs you again. But is it really scary? No.

Claire (Gabrielle Anwar) is a children's book writer/illustrator who has been having horrible nightmares about a little girl and a scary old house, and when she happens to see the house on TV, she travels to the sleepy community where it's located and rents it. Before long, she starts seeing the ghosts of the little girl and a teenage boy who seem to be trying to tell her something. These random appearances are where some of the movie's best "gotcha!" moments occur--the "shock" makeup on the boy is particularly effective.

The town's newspaper editor and local historian, Noah Pitney (STARGATE: UNIVERSE star Justin Louis, who also played Sarah Polley's husband in the DAWN OF THE DEAD remake) seems immediately attracted to Claire and supplies her with information about the house--years ago, a boy named Brendan and a little girl named Rose were lost in the nearby marsh and never found--but is skeptical of any ghostly manifestations. Eventually Claire begins to suspect that he's holding something back from her and can't quite trust him.

She finally seeks the help of a paranormal investigator named Hunt (Forest Whitaker) after finding his business card under a sofa (he's been summoned there before). After touring the house, Hunt advises Claire to check into a motel. She doesn't, so he agrees to help. "What do they want from me?" she asks at one point, to which he replies, "I don't know, but one thing's for's you they want it from."

Their investigation will soon turn up evidence of foul play involving some of the town's leading citizens, for which certain entities in the spirit world now seem intent upon seeking revenge. And somehow, Claire herself is connected with the whole thing.

THE MARSH wants to be really scary but only knows how to startle you now and then. There's some good CGI whenever Claire's bedroom reverts back to its original state on the night Brendan and Rose disappeared, but as the remake of THE HAUNTING so effectively demonstrated, CGI isn't scary. Neither are a bunch of wind effects, flashing lights, and a loud soundtrack. As evidenced in an early scene, a mere shadow on the wall can be a lot more frightening than any of that over-the-top stuff.

But like so many of these haunted house movies, the filmmakers give us a spooky set up with some potential and then, throwing sublety aside, try to hammer us with a lot of frenetic activity. It's interesting to look at but it isn't scary, and ultimately ends up being rather pedestrian. Rod Serling churned out more effective stuff than this on a weekly basis back in his "Night Gallery" days.

The final resolution of the mystery is okay but not all that interesting, with a twist that we've seen numerous times before. What we're left with is a mildly entertaining spook story that looks good, with some nice performances (especially from Forest Whitaker, who's always worth watching), but not nearly enough of the truly spine-chilling stuff that the first half of the movie sets us up for. Then again, I didn't think THE CHANGELING with George C. Scott was all that scary, yet I know people who still shiver at the mention of it. So your mileage may vary.

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