So I’m now well and truly settled back into life at home following my holiday to Norway. I’ve spent most of my time since I returned at work, watching films at the cinema or working on a video for my Youtube channel of the aforementioned holiday (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ik6AAcpAN_0 for those that are interested), but then I decided that it was time to review a film.
I was browsing for something to review and I came across this, a 2015 horror about a group of paranormal investigators that go into an abandoned mental hospital to see if the rumours of ghosts are true. If that sounds familiar to you then there is a very good reason for that…..it’s not an original idea. It’s far from an original idea.
In the recent past there have been at least three films that I know of that follow the exact same plot (Grave Encounters and it’s sequel, as well as Hollows Grove). This film screams complete unoriginality before I’ve even started watching it and my expectations could not be lower if I tried.
I could be really lazy here and just put “See plot from Grave Encounters” but I figure I should actually put some minor effort in here, even if the writer didn’t.
Isa (Cetti), Diego (Chauvet), Mateo (Escalante) and Charly (Tovar) are friends that produce a show in which they go into abandoned buildings that are reported to be filled with paranormal activity. Their latest assignment sees them enter an abandoned mental health hospital, a building that was thriving just a few years earlier, before everyone just left for seemingly no reason.
The group are initially disappointed as none of their efforts are rewarded, that is until one of the devices designed to detect ghosts. They finally make content with a presence and whilst it happily admits to being evil, it almost concedes that it is not concerned with the group being in the building, but that’s not enough for Diego. Diego continues to pester the spirits and decides to go lower into the asylum whilst the others are waiting to go home.
The group goes back into the asylum to find Diego, but the ghosts have now decided that they are not going to let them leave.
So, low expectations justified?
In some ways yes, and in others no.
Let’s start with the very basic thing and that is that the film reveals in the first three minutes that all of the characters die. Yep, all major tension has been taken out of the film within the first 180 seconds of footage. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not uncommon for all characters to die by the end of found footage style films, for example, by the end of the Grave Encounters films, only one character that enters the hospital survives, but the difference is that you aren’t told that none of the characters die within the first few moments.
For me this ruined any genuine sense of fear within the film as you know it’s coming, you’re just not entirely sure when, and in many ways I was genuinely surprised that it takes until the final 10 minutes of the 75 minute run time to actually see the spirits start to get violent, especially after Diego effectively pokes them with a stick.
The film has a very slow build, very slow indeed. The film may only be 75 minutes long but he feels considerably longer due to it’s slow build. In some places the build works very well, but the problem with a build is that if there isn’t really a lot happening on the screen, you really need to develop the characters and none of them really change in the slightest from when they walk in until they’re all killed off. With only four characters, you really can’t hold on for long.
In terms of development, the closest thing they get is Diego becoming increasingly obsessed by finding the ghosts. They openly admit to not being bothered by the presence of the four main characters, and it takes Diego not leaving them alone for something to happen, and there is very little about the film that hints at even a vague reason why you should care about the characters.
That being said, there are actually some aspects of the film that I very much enjoyed, the first of which is that all of the effects are practical. I didn’t notice a single special effect in the entire film and this was so refreshing. The actual physical presence of the ghosts on screen only lasts for maybe ten seconds in the entire film, if that, and this adds a level of tension as you’re constantly expecting something to happen, and yet the fact nothing does actually seems to add something somehow.
There is one scene in particular near the end of the film that is insanely tense. The characters throughout the film are able to detect the presence of the ghosts by using a device that beeps when there is paranormal activity (hence why Diego is able to tell that the ghosts mean him no harm at first), and after running from one ghost, the characters are hiding in a pitch black cupboard and only have the light from the device to keep them company.
Tension grows naturally as you’re just sat staring at this five lights very gradually increase in brightness over the space of about a minute. It is the standout scene because it is so basic in nature, you can see literally nothing other than the slowly increasing brightness of the light and all you can hear is the panicked whimpers of the surviving characters, it is an excellent scene.
Ultimately it takes more than just one or two great standout scenes to make the film anything more than below-average and whilst it’s not as bad as I was predicted, and I did feel genuinely tense at times, it was just a bit boring for the majority of the film.
I didn’t hate it as much as I anticipated that I would, but it still wasn’t a good film.
It tries hard on what I can imagine was an exceptionally limited budget and does relatively well for what is has to work with, but ultimately there just isn’t enough there to keep you interesting for more than 15 minutes, in other words 1/5 of the film’s run time.
Out of the found footage style films I’ve seen in recent years, it’s one of the better, but that’s not saying a lot.