Saturday, March 16, 2013

Horror Film Review

Episode 50 (2011):  I may cuss in this review.  Fair warning.  So here we have another flick about ghost hunting gone horribly wrong.  Actually, in this case, it's gone horribly stupid.  And the ways it has gone horribly stupid are legion.  (See what I did there with 'legion'?)  You know, if priests can exorcise demons, we should be able to exorcise shit movies like this.  I'll do my best...

A rich guy dying of cancer lets two competing paranormal investigative teams have full access to the most haunted place in America, the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum, in order to prove or disprove the existence of an afterlife.  The scientific group that tries to debunk everything has its own TV show and is led by Jack (Josh Folan), a not so subtle rip-off of Zak from Ghost Adventures, and this investigation is to be their 50th episode, hence the title.  The religious group has a psychic medium and staunchly believes all the activity is demon-related.  Guess who's right?  So they investigate and experience cold spots, creepy voices, shadow figures...and the ghost of a murdered nurse who straps a team member to a table in order to give her shock therapy.  Another spirit snaps the neck of the psychic.  Hmm.  Don't see that on Ghost Hunters.  Anyway, it turns out a serial killer who was transferred to the asylum opened a portal to hell while at the West Virginia state penitentiary and hell came with him.  The survivors dash back to the jail's basement to confront the demon and, of course, success hinges on whether Jack now believes in the power of God to smite evil.  Or some such bullshit.

Critique time, and I honestly don't know where to start.  It's like a cornucopia of suck.  OK...towards the end as they're dashing to the jail, there's about two minutes of aerial shots set to elevator music.  Why?  Hell if I know.  Maybe somebody lost a bet.  Both the guys from Ghost Adventures and Ghost Hunters have investigated Trans-Allegheny.  What's in this movie is so painfully not Trans-Allegheny that I wanted scream.  And when you think of ghost hunting shows, what comes to mind?  Night vision cameras that make everything that funky green color and first-person perspective, right?  Nope, not here.  So that's one of many major tension-building opportunities missed.  Instead, the static cameras show us spirits walking around that, ironically, seem to be made of static.  Just dumb.  But perhaps the most ridiculous of all is the demon they find in basement.  It's surrounded by what's supposed to be hellfire and is a lame stereotype sporting horns, devil eyes, and pointy teeth.  I tried not to yawn....or punch the screen.  I'll deal with the rest of the film's problems below; however, I want to mention that this is a lesson in less is more.  Don't show the demons or ghosts.  Do show shadows and objects moving on their own.  Focus on the creepy-ass atmosphere and how scared everyone's getting.  And if your goal is to get an audience to believe they're watching "found footage" of a paranormal investigation gone horribly wrong, don't add a music soundtrack for fuck's sake.  Good Lord...


Acting:  Some of the worst I've had the misfortune to witness in quite some time.  The one person who's not awful is Chris Perry as Jack's friend Damon.
Story:  It bothers me they used Trans-Allegheny.  This is a legit haunted asylum and really is considered the most haunted place in the USA, so the way it's portrayed here borders on blasphemy.  The rich dude with cancer is contrived and silly and unnecessary.  The plot holes are bigger than the portal to hell, I swear.
Direction:  Started out mostly not terrible then as soon as the investigation commenced, it fell apart in a big damn hurry.  Narrative cohesion was not a priority.  The running time is only 78 minutes, yet it feels like twice that.
Production Values:  They didn't film at the real asylum, fine; but with a budget of $1.3 million, they could have at least tried to find a place that didn't look like an abandoned Motel 6.  It's on film, not video, which is good, yet also somewhat strange given the subject matter.
Gore/FX:  Very little blood.  The CGI demon is cartoonish and laughable.  The ghost of the murdered nurse looked all right.
Scares:  Surprisingly, there is one.  And one only. 
Ending:  Cancer guy watching the unaired footage (that we just saw) and crying.  Why?  'Cause he's been such an asshole that he knows he's going to burn in hell.  Um...a bit of a stretch, but OK.
Verdict:  Should you see Episode 50?  I can think of no circumstances under which you may find yourself where this movie could plague your screen.  Well, maybe if you've been trapped in a satellite by an evil scientist and two snarky robots are your only companions.  (If you have no clue what this means, then Google MST3K.  You'll discover I'm being very humorous.)

Rating:  1 out of 5


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