MAY 16, 2012
AWKWARD. That’s the word that I kept wanting to write down in my notes as I suffered through Episode 50, which is yet another “Hosts of a paranormal investigation show uncover a REAL ghost” horror movie, following Grave Encounters, The Feed, Gacy House, House Of Bones… all of which are better movies, mind you. If your movie can’t even measure up to an Asylum production, you got problems.
So how’s it awkward? Well for starters, the movie begins with episode 49 of their paranormal show, which (in true Ghost Hunters fashion) our heroes prove that the ‘ghost’ is actually just a variety of things: rats, some loose wiring, etc. It’s a perfectly fine idea – we need to establish that these guys don’t encourage ghosts all that often (all of those other movies did the same thing, for the record). The problem is that their show lacks any polish – there’s no way in hell I’d believe that this show would have made it to 50 or even 5 episodes with such clunky filmmaking (when the “victim” shows a door that keeps opening, it’s off camera). I wasn’t a huge fan of Grave Encounters, but they did a great job of selling the realism of their show with the douchey host and such – this one never once feels genuine.
And that’s a full ten minutes. Then we learn about their next case a bit, only for the movie to inexplicably stop cold to tell us that the show was cancelled before the 50th episode aired and that “something went wrong”. Well no shit! We’re watching a damn horror movie, aren’t we? You don’t think we know something went wrong? Why are you stopping the movie at the 17 minute mark to tell us? Thus, by the time they actually get to the site where the real movie begins, we’ve already been treated to far too much bad acting and confusing editing, with no signs that the rest of the movie will make up for it.
Another major issue is that directors Tess & Joe Smalley have no understanding of the camera’s role in a movie like this. Half the time it’s a “found footage” type approach with everything we’re seeing being the POV of a camera being held by one of the other characters; the other half it’s a standard movie where the camera goes wherever they can put it. But here’s the thing – there’s no discernible difference between the two options, as they’re seemingly using the same camera throughout and not putting up any sort of “REC” overlay to establish which is which. So you spend most of the movie wondering if someone else is there filming (and thus in danger from the ghosts), which creates a huge problem for any horror film – knowing where everyone is in relation to one another. The editing also goes out of sequence to deliver interviews and background info, so it’s impossible to have any sense of time as well – it’s just a mess.
And it’s a shame because their ghosts (and their accompanying FX) are actually decent, and there’s a cool hook at the top of the film that is unique to these things – rival ghost teams. Our heroes are the usual sort of arrogant, in it for the fame types, and then the others are a “spiritual” team that approaches things with a more religious frame of mind. So they don’t get along at first, and I was excited about getting an Emily Rose-style “well it could be this or it could be that” explanation for the ghostly events – but the Smalleys botch this almost immediately, as the two teams agree to a truce and barely disagree about anything besides the usual “We should get out of here!” “We’re not leaving without _____!!!” type arguments. The leader of “Team Jesus” is also quite possibly the worst actor I’ve ever seen in a legitimately released movie (i.e. not counting stuff like this), so that’s another major hurdle that the movie can’t possibly overcome, since he becomes a bigger focus during its 3rd act.
Oh, the 3rd act. Even if the movie was great up until that point I’d walk away disappointed, as they deliver silly CGI in a finale seemingly inspired by The Last Exorcism (another movie that they kept screwing up the POV logic). Worse, they leave the damn asylum! Nothing was keeping them there, to be fair, but it’s just (again) awkward to spend a portion of the film’s final 15 minutes watching the heroes casually drive over to some place we hadn’t seen before, encountering new characters, etc. That this portion also contains the most confusing examples yet of the “Is someone filming this?” problem doesn’t help.
Neither does the commentary, which you can tell right off the bat is going to be obnoxious as the film’s producer/co-writer Ian Holt explains his vanity tag before introducing the Smalleys. And then for the next 80 minutes you’ll listen as they apparently describe a different movie, laughing at lines that aren’t funny, praising the performances that are almost uniformly bad, and generally just slapping each other on the back for their film that currently boasts a 3/10 rating on IMDb. They also defend their inane approach to the camera, claiming that they just want shots that look good because that’s what’s most important. No, letting your audience get their bearings on what the hell is going on is most important. Maybe they’ll figure that out before their next movie.
What say you?