The Skeptic 

2009

Despite initial promise upon a well-cut trailer, Tennyson Bardwell' s "The Skeptic" never quite takes shape. Tim Daly stars as Bryan Becket, an emotionally distant workaholic who neglects his family "? so much so that when he receives the call his aunt has died, his only reaction is that he inherits her house.

And about that house: It's huge and spooky, as horror films dictate abodes must be. Testing a trial separation from his wife (Andrea Roth), Bryan moves in, and immediately begins to see and hear things. When he discovers his aunt left the house to a psychic researcher at a nearby college, he kills two birds with one stone, trying to wrestle control of his property, and find out what might be going on.

He's aided by Cassie (Zoe Saldana), one of the research subjects, leading to an ending that had me scratching my head. In the wake of "Paranormal Activity"'s monster success, "The Skeptic" could reach an audience desperate for the less-is-more approach, but "Paranormal" was at least able to sustain suspense; in that department, "Skeptic" ebbs and flows.

There are some nice performances here, including Tom Arnold as Daly's business partner. (Yes, Tom Arnold. Give him some credit.) I'll also admit an opening-scene jolt reminiscent of William Castle's "House on Haunted Hill" quickened my pulse, and I admired Brett Rosenberg's unintrusive score. Beyond that, however, I can't recommend a rental. If it hits cable, give it a try.

"?Rod Lott

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