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Michael Ironside, right and Luca Villacis in Knuckleball.

Courtesy of GAT

  • Knuckleball
  • Directed by: Michael Peterson
  • Written by: Kevin Cockle, Michael Peterson
  • Starring: Luca Villacis, Munro Chambers, Michael Ironside
  • Classification: 14A
  • 89 minutes

rating

3 out of 4 stars

How ya gonna keep ‘em down on the farm after they’ve seen Home Alone and The Shining? Use a baseball bat with extreme prejudice, says Knuckleball – a poorly named horror-suspense film about a wily boy whose parents drop him off at grandpa’s isolated rural home in the dead of winter. (And I do mean dead of winter.) The gruff, grunting and stew-making grandfather is played by Michael Ironside, who excellently exudes an old-man smell and no-nonsense-allowed temperament. We’re not sure why he cuffed his weird neighbour guy upside the head, but the sense is that he deserved it. The Canadian-made creep-fest begins laboriously as co-writer/director Michael Peterson figures out how to rid the plot of any phones. (Every thrill-maker filmmaker has to deal with that pesky issue, but Peterson’s methods are slower than a Macaulay Culkin growth-spurt.) Otherwise, Knuckleball does not flutter; its pace and tone is lean, mean and eerie. Luca Villacis plays the home-alone little hero, a Rambo MacGyver Jr. in the making. Not all the kid’s ingenuity and wits are plausible, though, and a late-plot throw-in is a bit much. Still, there’s Ironside and enough cold-weather tension to make Knuckleball a swing-and-hit deal.

Knuckleball opens Oct. 12 in Toronto and Ottawa

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