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Home | Film Review: For Sale by Owner (2009)

Film Review: For Sale by Owner (2009)


Will Custis (Scott Cooper) makes his living as an architect, preserving and restoring America’s historic buildings, but his latest project threatens to become an obsession, even as it offers answers to one of this nation’s oldest, eeriest mysteries. When his work takes him to Chesapeake Bay, Will becomes intrigued by the legend of Roanoke, the lost American colony, and embarks on a dark journey to learn a terrible secret.


“For Sale By Owner”, though the title is ridiculous, the film itself is an incredibly interesting traditional ghost story that held my interest, captured my imagination, then……completely blew it with one of the most uninspired endings I have seen in a very long time. There have been many a spooky movie that tend to think they are being clever and give you an ending ( trying to be spoiler free here) that spits on everything you have invested yourself in for the last ninety minutes or so, and just completely leave you without a satisfying conclusion. This is one of those films.

There is plenty to enjoy until then with a story that IS inspired, it just baffles me to think the ending was such a letdown. Scott Cooper plays Will Custis, a man who is a preservation architect but knows little of his past and is running himself down with work. He finds a new project in an old home found in Chesapeake Bay. A home with a history that may be linked to the legend of the lost colony, a home that may consume him with it’s haunting. His gal Anna (Rachel Nichols) is pregnant and worried about his work consuming him. Her father Clive (Tom Skerritt) is trying to steal Will’s thunder by claiming that the find is his and that the find may rewrite history.

This film has so much going for it. I really didn’t want to watch this one since the title was so silly but within the first few minutes I was immediately drawn into it. They very cleverly wove in American history with a traditional ghost story as well as the whole haunted house bit that worked so well you felt as if that house was actually another character in the story. The acting was solid, though I have heard gripes about Scott Cooper’s performance but I thought he was great. Rachel Nichols shows a lot more range here than she was allowed to in this summer’s “G.I. Joe” film. Tom Skerritt is like old
reliable, he is always interesting and can really get into a character’s skin.

There was some great work for the minor characters as well. Kris Kristofferson was terrific as the owner of the house and you really catch the feeling of how much the house meant to him. Even an unrecognizable Skeet Ulrich shows up and chews his scenes up.

So why am I so bitter about this film? Simple…the ending was so incredibly rushed and felt slapped on for no other reason than to jus finish it. And that really makes me sad since the whole story was unique and very clever. The characters were well developed, we have a strong sense of who they are, and what their conflicts are either with themselves and or others. There is no resolution, just this horrible ending that makes me angry thinking about it.

Just as the events are all beginning to come together, I was waiting for that final twist to set the finale into motion and you get nothing. This film really had it all. The haunted house was genuinely creepy, the direction was solid, some very creepy set pieces, bizarre occurrences, an interesting twist on American history, and a group of really intriguing characters that we become invested in. It was all there, every element was in place but the filmmakers blew it with, trying to be as spoiler free as possible, what I like to think of as the “Dallas” ending. I felt robbed when this was over. I recommend
the film but I gave fair warning. This is a very strong movie and the story is worth getting in to. It intrigues from start but if you can’t deliver in the final moments, sitting through till the end may not be worth your time. For whatever reason, “For Sale By Owner” will always be to me the creep-out film that could have been.

One comment

  1. I agree with you totally a totally disappointing end!!!! I immediately rushed to the net to try and locate a summary of the plot in case I had missed something down the road but nothing!! What a waste of my time which I literally spent sitting on the edge of the chair….


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