NOVEMBER 5, 2010
If there was an Academy Awards for Asylum movies, 8213: Gacy House would probably pick up a few nominations, and maybe even a win or two in some technical categories (it would lose Best Picture to Mega Piranha, obviously). It’s not any good, but it’s at least relatively well made, the actors are believable for once (well, most of them), and they got a few basic details about the Gacy story right, so there’s some proof of effort right there.
But I am baffled why, of all serial killers, they would use Gacy as the model for their odd hybrid of found footage and serial killer movie. What exactly about Gacy screams “supernatural”? Wouldn’t Manson or Ramirez make a lot more sense? Those guys dealt with Satanic and occult type nonsense, and thus would be more likely to turn into a scary ghost haunting their old house than a fat clown who liked to rape and murder teenaged boys. Plus, the movie is obviously shot in California, not Illinois, where Gacy lived (seems to be a tradition). Hmm, did any serial killers live in California? Oh yeah, Manson and Ramirez.
Like I said though, they at least got some of his details right (if only by reading the same Wikipedia page I did when I watched the last Gacy movie). There’s a rather ridiculous scene where the ghost hunters’ EVP equipment picks up an angry male voice saying “Kiss my ass”. Not exactly Shakespeare (or even scary), but it IS the reported last words of the real Gacy. And the film mentions that Gacy’s house was torn down and a new house built on the same spot, which also happened for real (though I doubt in real life they bothered to make a house with a crawlspace, or one that looked at least 60 years old, like the one in the movie). They even bring up his art!
The dialogue in this movie is seemingly improvised, but that doesn’t mean its lacking in some traditional Asylum howlers. As the ghost hunters try to draw his spirit, they say things like “Dammit, Gacy, how frank do I have to be with you?” and “Gacy, did you molest boys in this room?” On that latter one, the movie feels kind of sleazy at times, with the group’s medium offering him a young boy’s shirt as a sign of friendship (ewww), and the youngest male of the group is killed after his pants are torn off and he is dragged behind closed doors (use your imagination). Plus the whole thing is kind of distasteful – it’s just a typical haunted house movie (complete with the two most attractive members of the group sneaking into a bedroom to have sex, cameras be damned!), but Gacy wasn’t really that old of a crime – a lot of the parents or siblings of his victims are probably still alive, and unlike the usual true crime movie, they’re hardly trying to tell the story as it happened. Plus – it’s the place where the boys died, not Gacy – wouldn’t the ghost be that of someone who died in that spot?
Speaking of insensitivity, one of the characters (the one who seemingly gets ghost-raped) keeps referring to events, people, etc as “retarded”. Now, I’m not going to pretend that I’ve never used it in a non-PC way, but I sure as hell don’t do it several times in a single scene. It’s odd to be watching a goddamn Asylum movie and thinking “Man, people are going to be offended by this.” Sort of goes against their MO of providing mindless entertainment. Let’s rein in our improvising actors in the future, eh guys?
Another baffling aspect to this film is that it can’t get its own facts straight. The DVD case says it’s May 15th, the trailer says March 23, the movie itself says March 6th. At the beginning of the film we are told seven bodies were found, but at the end they tell us only six were found and that the 7th person in the group is listed as a missing person because her body was never found. The coroner report says one of them died of hyperthermia, but they obviously meant hypothermia since when the other characters find him he is shivering and blue from being cold. There are also a bunch of hilarious typos, like “Prodcution” and “Contraversy”. They run a tight ship over there at the Asylum.
It’s also poorly paced. What made Paranormal Activity work as well as it did was that it was constantly getting more dangerous and unnerving. But nothing really elevates here – the first scares we see are the same sort of shit that’s still occurring in its final moments – windows and doors opening/shutting, papers blowing off the table, shadows on the wall... same old stuff from start to finish. And since we know that they all die, after a while I just wanted them to get to the end so folks could start dropping like flies, because you could essentially remove any 20-25 minute chunk from the film and it wouldn’t make any difference.
Like Paranormal Entity, they are trying really hard to make you think this is a legit thing, and thus there are no end credits or anything that an actual movie would have. But at least this one has a menu (Paranormal just played, if you hit the menu button the film would simply stop), and even a bonus feature! Titled “documentary”, it has some extra footage of the folks in the movie introducing themselves and why they were studying killers (apparently Gacy was the last killer on their tour – so, I guess he was the only ghost who did anything of note, since half of them want to leave the first time something scary happens), as well as an interview with the two folks who found the footage and cut it into a narrative for profit. Oh, and the trailer is buried in the middle of it, for some reason.
So it’s a marked improvement over most of their stuff in the acting/technical departments, but as usual they’re working with a pretty lousy script, making their efforts largely wasted. At least Winchester House was in 3D.
What say you?