Review: ALONE IN THE GHOST HOUSE
As a skeptic, I find it difficult to watch ghost hunting shows without just yelling “BULLSHIT!” at the screen the whole time. And it makes me laugh when people on the shows play up the most minor thing as indelible proof of the afterlife. But when I heard that Henrique Couto, the independent filmmaker/ukulele maestro was crafting a found footage horror film based on a ghost hunting reality show, I was intrigued to see if it would be played for scares from legit scares or if there would be a twist.
As a champion for a reality TV show similar to Fear Factor, Lana (Joni Durian, BABYSITTER MASSACRE, APPLECART) is out to continue her 15 minutes of fame by proving that she can’t be scared. She does this with her husband Derek (John Bradley Hambrick, SCAREWAVES, the upcoming PRIMORDIAL) as they stay overnight at reportedly haunted houses and document the experience. Forgoing the pseudo-scientific approach that most ghost hunting shows tackle, their show is just to tell the tale of the location and creep you the fuck out in general. You normally don’t see hunting shows tempting fate by playing the Bloody Mary game.
Beside the couple behind the show, we get the new camera man, Ford (Couto), and Lana’s friend, Sophie (Iabou Windimere, AWKWARD THANKSGIVING). Ford is a wise-cracking, practical-joke-playing kind of guy, which isn’t the best type of person to have around when tensions run high as he takes nothing serious. Sophie is more laid back, an artist, who plays more of the part of the audience’s window, as she isn’t putting on a front.
The movie centers on the group traveling to a location referred to as “The Devil’s Commune.” A property, once housed an artistic collective, was abandoned after a jealous artist tortured and murdered his girlfriend, a nude figure model for the collective, along with the rest of the commune. From outside perspective, the home appears normal, despite being near a firing range. Once inside, we are shown a home abandoned with little to nothing done to it after the grisly murders that took place. The upstairs is creepy enough, until we see the entrance to the basement where the insane artist created his tableau of pain.
Derek, while his wife is the figurehead of the show, is the main producer as well as co-host. He chooses to add a little production value to the show by hiring a medium/psychic to check out the property, as well as lead an on-air seance. The person that arrives is Tabitha (Erin R. Ryan, BABYSITTER MASSACRE, EASTER CASKET), an airy spirit that is attuned with plants and animals, complete with a third eye drawn on. Immediately put off by her personality, the crew is regretting Derek’s decision to hire sight-unseen from Craigslist. After a disturbing seance and odd goings on, the crew hunker down for the evening, ready to brave the night alone in the ghost house.
The humor presented by Couto and John Oak Dalton (co-writer) keeps things light, but they know when to back off a bit, allowing the tension to bloom towards the movie’s climax. Once it moves later on, things get darker in tone, as even the goofy Ford starts to freak out a bit. And with the show concept, this raw footage allows for a natural approach to the found footage medium. Beside Ford directing the camera, we also get a few scenes ala GoPro, where we get a more personal one on one experience with the individual characters. Where characters being separated in a typical haunted house film wouldn’t make sense, with the concept of the reality show behind it, it just clicks.
While the ensemble is strong, it is nice to see Durian really get a go at the lead role. I enjoyed her “not scared of anything” persona when she was “on-camera” but also appreciated those quiet moments when it was just her and Hambrick together, worried about things unrelated to the show. I am looking forward to seeing her in more, specifically NEON DOOM by Dustin Wayde Mills and PRIMORDIAL by Eric Widing. Both her and Ryan are making a strong name for themselves among the indie community, and it is exciting that more and more people are taking note of their talent. While many horror fans are claiming that found footage is played out, I beg of thee to check out this indie approach to the subgenre, as they do a lot with a little. And that was what the subgenre was meant for.
ALONE IN THE GHOST HOUSE is having it world premiere June 5th in Englewood, Ohio with cast members present (details here.). DVD and VOD launch is expected shortly after.
*Editor’s note: Check out Derek’s site, Film Classics Virgin for more reviews, interviews and up to date news.