The film is well lit and photographed and the director creates some of the most nerve-wracking scenes of suspense this side of early John Carpenter. The characters were all pretty sympathetic and when everything starts rolling down hill, I found myself rooting for the main character and her quest to save her best friend from a fat and dirty psychopath (his opening scene is pretty strong stuff, especially for any mainstream film made after the 1970s).
The ending was reviled by many people I knew when the film was first released. I thought it was handled well and fit the tone of the movie. Any other denouement might have come off as hokier than what was eventually shown. I can forgive a film for not knowing how to end when it has already put my eyes and imagination through the proverbial wringer ("A Nightmare On Elm Street" comes to mind).
I recommend a viewing, if only to warn people about the perils of getting your head caught between two wooden stair balusters while some psycho decides to rearrange the furniture in the hallway. Trust me.
Director Alexandre Aja also did the "The Hills Have Eyes" remake and the recent "Mirrors". At least he started out strong...