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Streaming Alert :: The Skeptic (2009)

November 27th, 2011 by unkle lancifer · 9 Comments

2009’s THE SKEPTIC has a measly 8% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. What? That is waaay harsh. I’m here to tell you that it’s pretty good and if you read reviews from those who approached the film in the right spirit you’ll hear mostly the same. Frankly, I’m a little stunned that so many picked this particular movie to rake over the coals when there is so much worse out there. It’s not like it’s incompetent or something, it’s just a tad on the meek side. The most common complaint from critics seems to be that THE SKEPTIC feels like a television production from the seventies or eighties. In my world that’s not a minus, that’s a plus. I can get into a quiet movie that doesn’t embarrass itself trying to shock me every five minutes. If you are a fan of haunted house movies and you can tolerate a movie with modest goals, I see no reason why you would not find THE SKEPTIC reasonably entertaining. It’s certainly not as horrendous as an 8% approval rating would suggest. Geez critics, lighten up.

TIM DALY (STORM OF THE CENURY) plays Bryan Becket, the title skeptic who inherits a seriously impressive house from an Aunt who has kicked the bucket. Bryan is a grounded, rational lawyer who is proud of the fact that he believes in nothing. You won’t be surprised to learn that he ends up having to reevaluate his worldview when once in the house he experiences what appears to be ghostly phenomenon. An eccentric psychic lady named Cassie (ZOE SALDANA, of the same year’s STAR TREK) convinces Bryan to let her stay in the place too and together they learn that it’s Bryan himself who is haunted by a dark past.

Another big complaint thrown at writer/director TENNYSON BARDWELL’s film is that it has all been done to death before, but I think it’s actually pretty rare to find a haunted house flick that delves into an adult male’s psyche and allows its protagonist to be as vulnerable and broken as DALY becomes as he unearths a history of abuse. The performance leans toward the histrionic at times but there’s something compelling about watching someone who thinks that he has all the answers discover he doesn’t have a clue. One scene involving a creepy doll caught me completely off guard when, unhinged to the extreme, DALY’s face distorts in half laughing/half crying anguish to the point where he was completely unrecognizable. TYNE would be proud.

I guess sending a movie this unassuming into theaters is a bit like throwing your Grandma in a wrestling ring. I probably would not have been too happy if I had paid 15 bucks to see it either but it’s a comfy snug fit for late night Netflix Streaming (where it’s currently available.) The journey the character takes is heavy-handed but still worthwhile and I have to admit to getting sufficiently wrapped up in the mystery of the house (and what a house!) There are a couple decent scares too, nothing to keep you up at night but sufficient enough to keep you on edge. The original script actually was written in the eighties and that might explain why it’s a bit hokey, but I found the general temperate approach a refreshing change. It may sound like I’m just old and out of it but I like the idea of horror movies coming in as many types and tones as possible and that includes reserved and earnest (not to mention consistently autumnal) flicks like this. The New York Times’ Stephen Holden is quoted as saying, “I’ll take a bunch of teenagers terrorized by chain-saw-wielding zombies any day.” Me? I’ll take both.

Tags: Stream Warriors · Streaming Alert!

9 responses so far ↓

  • 1 christineNo Gravatar // Nov 27, 2011 at 10:41 am

    I’ve seen this a few times – Netflix the first time and once on SyFy or a similar cable station – and to be honest I kind of liked it as well.
    I can see where it has an 80’s feel to it and some of it is hokey, yes, but nothing as awful as those critics apparently saw.
    And the house itself? Gorgeous inside and out!

  • 2 cmcmcmcmNo Gravatar // Nov 27, 2011 at 11:02 am

    I got this from the library a while back with no idea what it was about and liked it quite a bit too. It really reminded me of The Changeling – as well as having that general 70s and 80s movie feel – which didn’t bother me a bit.

    And I have to say I agree with every word you wrote between “It” and “this.” in the 3rd to the last sentence of your review. Perfect.

  • 3 unkle lanciferNo Gravatar // Nov 27, 2011 at 11:51 am

    I was going to send you an email about this one! I can’t watch a movie with a cool house in it and not think of you!

    I know you too are always down for an old fashioned haunted house flick and I agree about The Changeling comparison.

    I also dug the dynamic between Daly and Zoe (though it’s kinda short-lived). Something about Daly being a bit older and falling apart at the seams and Zoe jumping in as a maternal caretaker reminded me of Norman and Mary in Psycho 2 and I always dug that relationship.

    Reading reviews for this one really pissed me off. Do critics think being overtly cynical is the same thing as being smart? To me, it’s such a cop out.

    Also I have to admit that for some reason the scene where Tom Arnold inexplicably appears in a mask made me jump about seven feet. Jump scares are so underrated!

  • 4 MsInItForTheKillsNo Gravatar // Nov 27, 2011 at 1:03 pm

    I’m glad you recommended this one cause it sounds like just my type of movie. I don’t necessarily hold it against people for claiming that haunted house movies are boring, but it does make me sad. Last night, for example, I posted on Twitter about Sole Survivor (1983) and someone asked me how much gore there was. A good movie doesn’t need much gore!

    Also, I normally log in here through Facebook, but I can’t get it to work at all today. Wonder if anyone else has experienced that.

  • 5 micksterNo Gravatar // Nov 27, 2011 at 1:08 pm

    You had me at feels like a television production from the 70s or 80s. They say that as if it is a bad thing! Good grief! That means it is good! I will be seeking this one out to watch during my Christmas break. Thanks , Unk!

  • 6 lottie_of_millhavenNo Gravatar // Nov 27, 2011 at 3:50 pm

    I actually really enjoyed this movie(especially the ending!) , and had no idea that there was so much hatred thrown at it. It sad that people can’t handle atomsphere anymore.

  • 7 unkle lanciferNo Gravatar // Nov 27, 2011 at 5:03 pm


    Sole Survivor (83) is a great movie. I gotta watch that one again too. It’s like the missing link between Carnival of Souls and Final Destination.

    I did hear someone saying they were having a problem with the FB connection. We’ll see what we can do…


    You hit the nail on the head about why those reviews irked me! I don’t like film critics being snobby toward television movies and television actors. I think I’ve seen more creative stuff on the small screen than in the theater this year so I don’t know who they’re trying to kid. I think you’ll dig this one plus it takes place around Halloween!


    That’s the other thing! So many complaints about the ending. I liked the ending! I thought it fit!

  • 8 Chuckles72No Gravatar // Nov 28, 2011 at 11:16 am

    Hmmm – I was thinking about watching this on Netflix last night but ultimately went for a flick that turned out to be a blaxsploitation take on The House on Haunted Hill – can’t remember the name right now. I guess that I might have done better with option A.

  • 9 Dylan Donnie-DukeNo Gravatar // Nov 28, 2011 at 1:40 pm

    Great call Unk! I got the exact same ABC Sunday Night Movie vibe off of this, and totally loved it! Like you, to me 70’s-80’s TV movie is not a negative. I still challenge the uninitiated to watch “Dark Night of the Scarecrow” or “Bad Ronald” and not be unnerved by them. Sure the production values aren’t the greatest, but when it comes down to story and theme many of those films far surpass and “art film” that gets excreted from Sundance. Viva los películas para televisión! (I used google translate for that, so I have no idea if it is really correct.)

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