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The Haunting of Two Random Costco Shoppers

You should know that this review contains a lot of spoilers. But then again, so does the film's own trailer and TV spots. If you've seen them, the whole thing's already pre-ruined for you. You know exactly what happens to the main characters and, more to the point, you've already witnessed the final shot of the movie. This is how little the marketing department cares about your viewing experience.

Okay. First spoiler. Poor Costco. I thought I'd never see the day when I felt concern over the mom-and-pop-store-wrecking megashopping entity. But I now officially feel sorry for them. Whoever is in charge of positioning the Costco brand in films needs a reprimand from his or her corporate higher-ups. After the Dane Cook/Jessica Simpson rom-bomb Employee of the Month, Ben Stiller's aliens-turn-bulk-shopping-retailer-into-hellpit flop The Watch and now this film, which suggests that if you're going to buy homesteading supplies at the warehouse of bargains, you're going to be killed by freaky ghosts right there in the store, they might want to reconsider the wisdom of their outreach program. According to these films you're safer in the safe house from the movie Safe House -- where, according to its own tagline, "no one is safe"-- than you are in Costco.

Second spoiler(s). Paranormal Activity. Also Insidious. That's really all that needs to be said, but here goes anyway: two young people (Sebastian Stan and Twilight's Ashley Greene, both disconnected from whatever spirit moves actors to act) rent a house that sprouts a grody bubbling goo cluster. Black mold? Supernatural bacteria? Only Tom Felton knows for sure. Luckily for us he's ready to talk: we learn that the artist formerly known as Draco Malfoy has conjured a spirit from brainwaves and it wants to be free and live among the electrical power grid until it finds suitable hosts it can study and devour. To get away from it you have to go live in an apparition-repellent cage ("A bomb shelter for brainwaves," says Felton, his funniest line of the movie.)

And then not-terrifying events take place. When objects floating around your haunted house all Bedknobs and Broomsticks-style, when bedsheets creep around with no human assistance, when the little kid next door tells you "Your house killed my dog" and you've got no response because the kid's right, when you leave your haunted house and the ghost-thing-whatever is still with you and you realize that it's you who's haunted, then you're in a movie that was already made. Made several times, in fact. Sure, the allusions to the housing crisis, toxic environments and failing American infrastructure give it a topical edge that'll be referenced by whoever decides to publish the paper on Horror Films As Economic/Environmental Anxiety, but by this point, that stuff is all components of a big game of follow the leader and until someone else comes along to tweak the formula, the scares have been wrung out and left to dry.

Maybe writer-director Todd Lincoln, here making his feature debut, had another movie floating around in his mind. Maybe this one was taken out of his control. It seems unlikely that his first shot at a big studio feature was supposed to wind up unscary, copycattish, rote and unintentionally hilarious. But sometimes it happens like that all the same.


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