2005, US, directed by Iain Softley
Though director Iain Softley has never really fulfilled the promise he showed with Backbeat, which recounted the early years of the Beatles, there's a strange kind of fun to be had here with his orchestration of the clichés of the spooky American South (there's Spanish moss in the opening shot, for goodness sake!). Despite a cast with some major wattage (John Hurt, Gena Rowlands, Peter Sarsgaard and, in a true blink-and-you'll-miss-it turn, Isaach de Bankolé), the film is an unpretentious Gothic thriller, set in an Old Dark House chock-full of secrets. Visually quite attractive, the film does have some pacing problems: after revealing his hand early on, Softley is forced to pad things out for a while, before a well-orchestrated and original twist at the conclusion. Kate Hudson plays a much less frothy character than usual, and she's generally credible in a more serious guise, with the underlying charm that makes her so watchable. Films like this remind me of the pantomimes I grew up watching each Christmas - that is, an experience to be enjoyed in a crowd, where the implausibilities are actively noted by talking back to the screen, with the audience able to yell 'he's behind you!' as needed.