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'Still/Born' hones in on the nightmares of new parents

'Still/Born' hones in on the nightmares of new parents
Christie Burke in movie "Still/Born." (Vertical Entertainment)

First-time feature director Brandon Christensen brings some impressive snap to the postnatal spook-show "Still/Born." Christensen and co-writer Colin Minihan mostly repeat old beats from suburban supernatural horror films like "Poltergeist" and "Paranormal Activity," but strong actors and lean, unfussy storytelling ought to be more than enough to please genre buffs.

It's clear "Still/Born" is going to be something special in its opening minutes, which use intimate handheld camerawork, droning music and impressionistic editing to capture how new parents Mary (Christie Burke) and Jack (Jesse Moss) swing from joy to despair when one of their twins doesn't survive delivery.

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What follows is only a mild exaggeration of the hell that most couples go through when they bring their firstborn home — amplified by their sense of tragedy over having lost a child. Mom and Dad are sleep-deprived and out of sync. Making matters worse, Mary keeps hearing and seeing ghostly apparitions on her baby monitor.

Christensen skillfully and reliably bangs out good scares using the usual tools: creepy shadows, strange sounds and jarring jump cuts. It helps that Burke and Moss give committed performances as a wife and husband with very different perceptions of what's gone awry in their lives.

There's nothing all that original about "Still/Born." But it's sharp and shocking, and parents especially should appreciate how it turns caring for a screeching newborn into an inescapable nightmare.

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‘Still/Born’

Rating: R, for disturbing images, some violence and language.

Running time: 1 hour, 27 minutes.

Playing: AMC Universal CityWalk, Universal City

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