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Formulaic horror flick underwhelms

Movie suffers from stillborn script, lacklustre performance

The Intruders. Directed by Adam Massey. Starring Miranda Cosgrove and Donal Logue.

Rating: 3 (out of 10)

Miranda Cosgrove has perfect skin. Like, airbrushed, smoother-than-those-creepy-porcelain-dolls-in-horror-movies flawless.

Let's focus on that, shall we? It's one of the more positive things to be gleaned from The Intruders, an alarmingly underwhelming horror film starring 21-year-old Cosgrove as a Stanford student who isn't smart enough to stay away from torture-chambery looking basements or attics scattered with dismembered dolls.

Following a devastating family loss, Rose moves with her workaholic father (Donal Logue, in a thankless role) into a 1912 fixer-upper in the Chicago 'burbs. "Couldn't you find a crappy remodel closer to home?" Rose whines.

Rose whines a lot: dad is at his architectural firm all the time, leaving Rose largely on her own. She's off school for the semester thanks to some kind of psychotic episode; dad keeps reminding her to take her meds. Naturally, the first thing Rose does when she moves in is flush her pills down the toilet, which only amplifies the creaky floorboards and scratching noises coming from the wall. And is that screaming she hears?

Rose only cracks a smile when a cutie named Noah (fellow Nickelodeon product Austin Butler) appears in her partially demo'd kitchen. We can't help but smile, too: Noah is the least handy-looking guy ever, seems to be the only worker on a massive job, and seemingly doesn't own a hammer.

There's also a girl Rose's age across the street (Jenessa Grant) who seems to be marginally afraid of her father (and who wouldn't be afraid of Tom Sizemore?). Her dad keeps catching Rose watching him from her bedroom window. Attention single women: the need for decent curtains cannot be overstated here.

Turns out that the house was most likely a bargain because the previous owners, a woman and her 20ish son - an insult to home-schooled boys everywhere - mysteriously disappeared. The fetching runaway whom big-hearted mom and son sheltered for awhile was at first presumed dead, and then declared a runaway again.

Rose decides to solve the mystery by endlessly exploring the nooks and crannies of her creepy house. She hears noises. She sees maybe-dead people. Dad believes none of it.

It's all here: the ominous music, the doors that open and close at will, missing and vandalized items, the scribbled-in diary. Filmmakers stopped short of a murdered family pet, but only just.

Formulaic can be fun but things are downright sleepy until the big reveal, which is mostly silly, not scary. Fault lies with the stillborn script and with Cosgrove, who doesn't quite have the heft for hysteria. For a gal off her meds and living in a potential torture-trap, she's pretty placid. Still, teens of a certain age who remember the actor from hallmark Nickelodeon shows Drake and Josh and iCarly will likely flock to see her in a role designed as a segue into more grown-up fare. That, or they'll pay to catch a glimpse of Cosgrove in her undies.

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