I picked this movie at random from the Netflix library which is a tactic that has worked before. That tactic makes it so I have little idea what to expect. This movie is produced by Zack Andrews and Steven Schneider who produced Paranormal Activity, The Devil Inside and The Visit. It should not be a surprise that this film is a found footage movie. I am not a fan of found footage movies which is most often used in the horror genre. You may have noticed that I have not talked much about found footage on this blog before and that is because I usually do not seek them out. Still, I know that the sub-genre is successful so I did not want to dismiss it outright. Found footage (in a first-person viewpoint) works in horror movies much like a haunted house works. Your viewpoint is guided toward specific scares as things jump into your field of vision. It can also be very frightening to feel like you are in the action but cannot control yourself.
I have been fascinated with haunted houses since I first went through one. The first haunted house I ever went through was set up at St. David’s Episcopal Church in Roland Park in Baltimore. There were shadows, dry ice, strobe lights and a ton of jump scares that made me pray for the exit. It would probably seem kind of tame now but it rattled me hard while I was still in elementary school. That seed of interest was planted but it would not really grow until I was a bit braver. My interest in haunted houses mirrored my interest in live theater and theme park attractions. All three of those things are about establishing a story and a mood. You are basically crafting and controlling somebody’s experience without literally pushing them along. I love looking at the costumes and reading narratives from haunted houses and especially the ones that are too far for me to visit. I also love to see how the effects are done.
We start with a lot of probably real interviews and promotional footage concerning fans of haunted houses and workers at haunted houses. These are intercut through a lot of the movie. People get to explain in their own words why they love haunted houses and Halloween in general. It is edited together in a half documentary, half stock footage kind of way. I can definitely agree with this, setting up the premise of the movie. This movie is about how the love of a good scare can go wrong. We never tire of hearing those kinds of stories of people who found the limit of what they love and things go badly. The interviews and news stories do a good job of setting up a foreboding mood. I am not sure how much of it was real and how much of it was produced but it does a good job. The segment also introduces us to what we will be getting for the rest of the movie with the digital effects. There is static, focusing and color adjustment effects applied to the film to mimic what you might see with a camcorder. It is a little bit hokey but it does kind of jangle at my nerves and makes me a little more susceptible to scares.
I did not recognize anyone from the cast in this movie which, as I have stated before, can definitely be a good thing. I could definitely tell that these people are friends even if they are a little bit too bro-esque for my tastes. The acting is pretty good as they are going for realistic reactions and a lot of the time I think the actors had no idea what was going to happen next. Unlike a lot of horror movies that I have seen, there is little internal logic that governs what the scares will be. I guess that makes the movie built like a haunted house in that they try to frighten and surprise you just as much as actually scare you. I am going to do another clown warning here, by the way. I cannot escape clowns this Halloween and I think I might just have to hit the clown stuff even harder next year. It creeps me out. There is a lot of variety in this movie and while it is kind of cheesy in places, that is kind of what good horror movies are about.
Overall, this was a surprisingly good horror movie. The pacing was a bit off but I chalk that up to it being a found footage movie. At least they made a good enough excuse for all of the cameras being present at every moment and did not do another Skype horror movie. This is very close to an actual documentary on haunted houses and that part was really great. The movie kind of just grinds on and on and I wish it would have been paced better. It could not have been much shorter without classifying it as a short film. When the action is rolling, the movie is great but there is a lot of messing around. It is a creepy kind of a jumble sort of like House of a Thousand Corpses but not bad like that movie is. I guess I would recommend it but it would be best put on in the background of a good Halloween party.