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Review: Talking to the dead turns troublesome in supernatural thriller ‘Our House’

Thomas Mann in the movie “Our House.”
(IFC Midnight)

After countless supernatural thrillers, one lesson should be clear, both to the characters and the audience: Let the dead stay dead. The trick is to make the motivation to speak to spirits so powerful that even the most horror-savvy can’t resist.

“Our House” gets those emotional underpinnings firmly in place, then spends much of its running time shoring them up — sometimes at the expense of delivering scares.

Thomas Mann stars as Ethan, a brilliant college student working on a machine to generate power cheaply and wirelessly. When his parents die unexpectedly, Ethan quits school to take care of his teenage brother Matt (Percy Hynes White) and younger sister Becca (Kate Moyer). Then he tinkers with his invention again and finds it can conjure messages and manifestations from beyond the grave.

Director Anthony Scott Burns and screenwriter Nathan Parker (adapting an earlier film by Matt Osterman) aim more for realistic family drama than a spook-fest. There’s almost as much in “Our House” about Ethan’s struggle to be a good guardian as there is him weighing whether it’s a good idea to keep talking to ghosts.

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When the movie shifts more toward fright in its final third, Burns and Parker don’t have much new or exciting to offer. But with the help of a strong performance from Mann, they do a good job capturing one family’s feelings of brokenness, and how far they’d go to get back what they lost.

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‘Our House’

Rated: PG-13, for terror and some thematic content

Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

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Playing: Arena Cinelounge, Hollywood

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