When the Callahans travel to the mountains for a summer getaway, their peaceful plans for the weekend are interrupted by supernatural spirits from the past. Mitch (Joseph Anthony Jette) and Christina (Elizabeth Purdy) deal with their personal demons as the their children, Scott (NIck Wolf), Gavin (Sean Patrick Flaherty) and Sara (Melissa Selinas) uncover the paranormal world that surrounds their family’s vacation home. The family must unite to survive.
Ominous, directed by Justin Bergonzoni, is a straight forward, no frills haunted house/ghost story presented in movie-of-the-week fashion. The script by Sharry Flaherty and Ryan Neal McMackin is by the book, full of cliches and a built on well-worn ghost story devices. There’s nothing new to the film. The characters have the usual cinematic family issues and are typical soap opera nonsense or after-school special relationship hum drum dull drums. The make up effects are well done and spooky enough, but little is done to bring the most out of the visuals. The direction doesn’t help; technically, the film stumbles; and, the acting is dismal at best. While the efforts are honest and script never resorts to cheap thrills and always respects the story it wants to tell, the end results it too slow and dull to recommend.
Ominous is a bit tough to sit through. Not because of any intense scenes or graphic visuals, but because the acting is so wooden. The two main actors, Joseph Anthony Jette and Elizabeth Purdy as the Callahan parents have little chemistry together and they deliver their lines in a continuous monotone diction. They also have little connection to the three children as well and whole family unit is rather unconvincing. With a story about a troubled family, it is vital that the family draws the audience in with their conflicts and emotional drama. In Ominous, that dynamic is never achieved regardless of the efforts of the cast. Elizabeth Purdy succeeds more in her role toward the end when the conclusion focuses on her past and her discoveries as she faces the paranormal threat one-on-one, but it’s too little too late.
Technically, the film has issues as well. The sound levels are inconsistent and some of the sound track is too loud at inappropriate times. The lighting is poor at times as well with some key scenes too dark to be effective. It has its troubles with contrast and atmosphere. The ghosts appear creepy and the staging should have produced adequate chills, but the lighting and the sound do too little (or too much, in case of the sound) to support the visuals, robbing the direction of any scares. The direction is solid but very undeveloped, visually more suited for television than anything theatrical, resulting in a Lifetime special type of vibe. The director has a promising eye for setting up subtle visual creepy scenes but the script gives him little to do with the scene once established.
If anything, Ominous should be commended for never resorting to cheap scares, crude trills and over-the-top visual tricks to produce its frights. It sticks to its guns to produce a horror film based on its ghosts and themes. There’s no gore, no nudity and no foul language. There are not too many film makers that take this route and it’s unfortunate these filmmakers were unable to bring to screen what they most certainly had in mind during production. The story is too shallow for a full length feature, there is not enough conflict or action to carry the film through its second act – nothing really happens. As a result, combined with its technical problems and the wooden acting, the film is dull and difficult to sit through. The audience is never invested in the characters nor the ghosts, at best it produces a mild curiosity to the story’s supernatural origins. Another thing that undermines the movie is that the characters never seem to be in any jeopardy. The music tries to imply they should be in danger, but the visuals never support this notion. Spooked sure, but never threatened. The spirits are never aggressive, they are always just standing around or following the cast around. Ominous is a mystery movie that tries to be a horror film, but forgets to bring anything horrific to the table. Unfortunately, no matter how sincere the efforts, Ominous limps along producing more snores than screams.
1 out of 5