The Haunting Hour...Don't Think About It Review
Cassie (Emily Osment) is thirteen years old, has just moved into a new neighbourhood and is a little odd. Everyone else at her school dresses in the everyday wear of teenagers but, as a goth, she stands out in the crowd. Unfortunately, being thirteen, standing out is not what she wants to do. What she wants is to catch the eye of high-school stud Sean (Cody Linley), thinking that she might have done so when she sees him reading a book of the collected works of Edgar Allen Poe, on which he has to write an assignment. But just before she can offer to help, the pretty Pumpkin Queen of the Hallowe'en Ball, Priscilla (Brittany Curran), steps between them. Getting up to walk away, Cassie bumps into Priscilla, only for her tray of juice, burger and jelly to spill over her shirt. A bad day just got a lot worse.
On Hallowe'en night, Cassie's parents leave for a party, asking Cassie to look after Max (Alex Winzenread). Before she does, she goes for a walk in town and spots a little occult store at the bottom of an alleyway. Inside, she asks the owner (Tobin Bell) if he has a book section and he points her to the back of the shop where a single book sits, The Evil Thing. The first page of the book warns the reader, "DO NOT READ THIS ALOUD". That night, Cassie takes Max trick or treating and, returning home, reads the book to him before bedtime.
The Evil Thing is a gruesome beast.
On living flesh, it loves to feast.
It's a two-headed thing that you don't wish to greet...
One head sucks your blood, one head chews your meat.
It carries its babies in slimy eggs on its back.
The babies are hungry when they hatch for a snack,
so the Evil Thing traps some poor victims alive,
For the babies to eat when their birthdays arrive,
but don't worry, don't cry, please don't have a fit...
The Evil Thing is not real unless you think about it.
Remember...don't think about it.
The problem is that Max can't help but think about it and when Cassie puts him to bed, he lies in his bed thinking about nothing but the Evil Thing. Then his wardrobe door opens and an icky black tentacle creeps out...
Being scared is one of the memorable experiences that a child can have. All of us, I am sure, can remember our first time watching a scary horror film and lying awake that night listening to and being terrified by every creak in the house, the howling of the wind outside and every rattle of rain on the roof. The Omen, The Evil Dead, Asylum or Damien: Omen II. Each and every one had this viewer lying awake all night, peering out over the blankets for signs of demons, the Antichrist or a severed head wrapped in brown paper and string. I cursed myself. And I cursed my parents and older sisters for letting me stay up late and watch such fare.
Now a parent myself, I did what every responsible father did when presented with the 12-rated The Haunting Hour...Don't Think About It and watched it with my 7-year-old daughter. My five-year-old son and other, three-year-old daughter pleaded with me to take them to bed and away from the Evil Thing, which pleased me no end, not only for gauging their fear with a horror movie but for having a surefire means of getting the two of them to bed.
No matter the 12-rating, The Haunting Hour...Don't Think About It is much more suitable for pre-teens, particularly those seven-to-ten-year-olds who, a matter of weeks ago, would have been close to breathless with the excitement of High School Musical 2. Emily Osment makes for a charming lead, at least in the second half of the film, when she scowls much less but the important thing is how it scares. There are very few jumps in The Haunting Hour...Don't Think About It but it's clearly been watching Poltergeist with its having a monster lurking within a child's bedroom. Alien is even more of an influence with Max, Priscilla and a passing pizza guy all wrapped up in a silvery cocoon for eating while The Evil Thing's eggs hatch into hungry and very toothy little creatures that quickly make for the wriggling kids.
Seven-year-olds won't know who he is but Tobin Bell, fresh from eviscerating people in Saw, lends The Haunting Hour...Don't Think About It a touch of real horror. His occult store is the kind of claustrophobic little place that Fairuza Balk would have spent all of her pocket money in in The Craft, while he adds a note of the supernatural by saying that his being there is due to being called by Cassie's wish to scare her brother. Apparently, her need to terrify someone was much greater than anyone else's. Just before driving off in his hearse, he offers Cassie and Sean a clue, "Two heads are better than one...that's the way to get the bloody job done!" It so happens that the Evil Thing has two heads.
This won't scare anyone older than fifteen but it was probably never intended to. It is based on a book by children's author R L Stine, who is also responsible for the Goosebumps, Mostly Ghostly and Fear Street series, and comes with the same clunky monster as did the adult horror films of twenty years ago. Why it works is to be a frightening little thing for children who are not well-served by more macabre imaginations. The Haunting Hour...Don't Think About It has a memorable monster, a couple of presentable leads, a fair whiff of horror about it and even the kind of it's-not-over-yet! twist so beloved of the genre. So good is this as an introduction to horror that the best that one can hope for it is to be merely the first step into films that will make for many more memories over the years, all good ones as my children, like I did before them, lie awake at night wondering why it was they so wanted to watch them.
The Haunting Hour...Don't Think About It looks to have been made either for television or direct-to-DVD but is a fair presentation regardless. It has been lit slightly too bright for a horror film but that reflects both the age of the audience it has been produced for as well as it being made for television. No matter, it looks fine on DVD, anamorphically presented in 1.78:1 and is clean and largely free of artefacts. Surprisingly, though, the soundtrack is a very good one, being a DD5.1. There are many moments when there's clear use of the rear speakers, not least with the passing thrum of motor cars or the doors that slam between Cassie and Max's room. Otherwise, the action is clear and though the Evil Thing doesn't have much of a presence, the film does fine by it. Finally, there are a range of subtitles.
There are no extras on this DVD, which is a disappointing release after the making of, the scare-o-meter and the interview with R L Stine from the Region 1. The music video on the US release is present but now plays out over the end credits.