"This is the reason we don't self-diagnose on the Internet," says unemployed husband Josh Hamilton to terrified wife Keri Russell when she explains that her Google sessions have turned up the seemingly incontrovertible fact that powers from beyond have selected their family for... nobody quite knows what. Then they have a screaming argument.
They've got two sons, a little one who's scared of both divorce and "The Sandman" that invades his nightly dreams and one that's 13 and ready to enjoy weed and porn with his dirtbag friends. They've also got half an income and its consequences: money shame, a months-late mortgage and austerity measures to stave off the inevitable. Oh, and creepy stuff happening inside the house at night while they sleep, creepy stuff that targets their groceries.
Like every good horror family, they stay put in the worst place ever. But it wouldn't matter if they ran; when they consult paranormal expert J.K. Simmmons (perfect deadpan casting, eliminating all hysteria and gooniness from what would normally be a role played big and crazy) they learn some horrible truths about their predicament and have to brace themselves for whatever happens next.
It's horror-as-stand-in for a variety of personal and public crises, a trending style riding a wave of ubiquity thanks to Paranormal Activity, Sinister and Insidious (all of which share a producer, Jason Blum), but don't hold that against the movie. Every few years the horror genre needs to pick on an external boogeyman to exorcize with monsters, ghosts and aliens. Right now it's just the broken economy's turn and so, now more than ever, terror begins at home -- especially when the evil forces are ruining expensive cuts of meat and overturning gallon jugs of milk onto the floor.
Never really scary, the story earns its keep with tension, anxiety and an ability to hold its cards close to its chest. The unknown is the most frightening element of any horror movie. It allows the audience to generate its own fear far more than any overt demonstration could and this one, as derivative of its predecessors as it may be, understands that rule. It knows that scaring ourselves is exactly the reason we self-diagnose on the internet, adding outsize terror to what may well be nothing at all.