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Review: House of Bones

DVD Review

House of Bones DVD 001This one was in the bargain bin and all I knew about it was that featured Charisma Carpenter and Corin Nemec and considering some the films I‘ve seen them in their names are no guarantee of quality. A film based on a ghost hunter TV show that finds out that the house they are investigating is really haunted is neither new or original and has in fact appeared as the plot is a few episodes of the TV show Supernatural. This film actually did remind me of the Ghostfacer episodes from that show.

The cable TV show Sinister Sites is doing poorly in the ratings so a production company executive puts pressure on the presenter of the show Quentin French (Corin Nemec) to go the next haunted house himself in an effort to give the show a ratings boost. French is arrogant but reluctantly agrees when faced with the sack for not agreeing. We don’t see much more of Quentin in this film until the end.

We see the real crew getting unpacked outside the gate of a large suburban house and though the grounds look a bit barren and neglected it does seem to be filmed in winter. They actually comment on the house looking in good condition because they think it would be spookier if it looked run down. The crew is cinematographer Simon (Collin Galyean), lead investigator Greg Fisher (Marcus Lyle Brown), producer Tom Rule (Ricky Wayne) and an assistant called Bub (Kyle Russell Clements). They also have a psychic Heather Burton (Charisma Carpenter)

Heather has a feeling of strong energies in the house but the crew have heard this stuff from psychics all the time and they have visited many so-called haunted house and none of them believe it’s real. They are here to film a show and they have lights and effects to do that. The real estate agent who is supposed to let them in is late but the gate is open. The house itself is locked but Greg picks the lock of the back door and they go inside. The house looks clean and well-maintained and there’s even fresh food in the fridge. At least it looks fresh but when Bub helps himself to an apple it turns rotten and maggoty before he can bite it. Bub is new to the crew and is both nosy and whiny until he’s told to just shut up, do what he’s told and stay out of the way.

The real estate agent Sara Minor (Stephanie Honore) shows up and she’s not happy that they are already inside. There’s talk of legal liability stuff but they were only supposed to film in the house for five hours in the daytime. This is a problem for Tom who wants to film at night. Greg manages to smooth things over with Sara and she reluctantly agrees to let them carry on.

Simon is setting up his equipment in a music room near the front door and he sends Bub to put fixed cameras on the walls of all the rooms. In one room the wall starts bleeding once he’s fixed the camera and when he takes it off he ends up punching a hole in the wall and losing the camera in it. He cut his hand and goes to clean it up while Greg retrieves the camera. The hole is dripping with slime and there’s a hint of body parts in the shapes in the hole. Greg thinks it’s ectoplasm and bags and shows it to Tom and Simon before bagging it.

The spirits in the house don’t waste any time letting them know that they are real and dangerous. Bub gets lead astray by female spirit that he follows into shower room only foe the spirit to vanish and replaced by a cockroach infestation as he tries to go back to the others end ends up being swallowed whole by the house.

First they have the various excuses for not leaving right away like finding Bub or getting the first ever genuine footage of a haunting but when things get so serious those excuses can’t keep them there the house locks them in. They have to uncover the black magic secrets of the house of bones if they want a chance of getting out alive.

This has the low-budget feel of a made for TV film mainly because it is. The effects a very cheap but are used sparingly so rarely get in the way of the story. It isn’t a very original story but it is entertaining enough. Charisma Carpenter doesn’t really get much to do apart from wander around seeing visions. Corin Nemec gets even less screen time and mostly acts as comedy relief when he does appear.

Rating 5.5/10

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Posted by on February 24, 2013 in Entertainment, Film

 

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Review: The Haunting

October Horror Month

One of my earliest memories of being terrified by a horror film was by this film and, while over the years I may have forgotten about it, the film still creeps me out all these years later. It is a masterpiece in the art of deriving scares but never showing what is causing the scares

Hill House is introduced to us with a voice-over from Dr Markway (Richard Johnson). Despite the ancient ornate look of the house it’s only 90 years old. Built by an eccentric (translation: insane but rich and powerful) man called Hugh Crain for his young wife and baby daughter but his wife was killed on the driveway to the house and never even saw it. He got second wife and she died falling from a high tower in the house. Hugh went abroad where he died leaving Abigail in the house alone. She grew up in  the house and grew old and when she became infirm and bed-bound she hired a companion to look after her. One day the companion was snogging some guy out in the garden and never heard Abigail banging on the wall for help and she was found dead later. The companion continued to live in the house for some years afterwards shunned by locals who suspect she killed the old woman either by her own hand or neglect. One day she hanged herself in from the balcony in the library. The ownership of house passed down to the family of the companion and is presently owned the very wealthy Mrs Sanderson (Fay Compton).

Markway is requesting Mrs Sanderson’s permission to stay in the house n conduct research in the hope of finding definite scientific evidence of the existence of an afterlife. Mrs Sanderson is intrigued and asks about how he intends to do this. Markway wants to bring a group of people that have had experience of supernatural phenomena and getting them to simply observe what happens. Mrs Sanderson agrees but wants her nephew Luke to be there to keep an eye on things. Luke expects to inherit Hill House and Mrs Sanderson gets a small amount of sadistic pleasure at making him stay there.

One of the people Markham invites to take part in his experiment is Eleanor (Nell) Vance (Julie Harris), a nervous awkward woman who lived with her mother, looking after her when she was ill until she died. Now she lives with her sister’s family and her sister is not letting her take their car to get to Hill House. We hear Eleanor’s inner monologue and her resentment at the way she gets treated by her family. For her this invitation is the most important thing in her life, a chance to with people who wanted her to be there. She takes the car anyway and her inner monologue sounds more like the resentful thoughts of a rebellious teenager than of a mature adult.

Eleanor gets to the gates of Hill House which are locked. The caretaker Mr Dudley (Valentine Dyall) doesn’t want to let her in but Nell is very insistent. When she sees the house she feels both frightened and excited by it. Mrs Dudley (Rosalie Crutchley) is ready to open the door before she knocks and she really goes out of her to try to scare Nell. After she takes Nell to her room she goes through a creepy speech about how she and Mrs Dudley leave before it gets dark and it’s miles to town and there’s no-one to help them at night. After her little speech she leaves with an evil grin on her face.

Nell has look around the room and feeling frightened. She has look at the bathroom and hears voices from next bedroom sharing the bathroom. The second guest of Dr Markway has arrived is being given Mrs Dudley’s little speech but she’s not paying any attention and she introduces herself to Nell as Theodora just Theodora but Theo (Claire Bloom) to her friends. In contrast to Nell, Theo is very confiden and outgoing. Once Theo has settled into her room Nell puts on her new clothes and they go hunting for the dining room. This proves much harder than you’d think and they can’t even find a light switch. Fortunately Dr Markway finds them. He explains that Crain had designed the house so that there are no right angles and any doors left open will eventually close by themselves. It also means they layout of building is like a maze. The fourth member of their party Luke Sanderson (Russ Tamblyn) emerges from the room adjoining the dining room with a martini he‘s mixed for them all. Luke is young, friendly and very sceptical about Markway’s hunt for ghosts.

After dinner they relax in the parlour which Markway has chosen as their base of operations. Nell is feeling comfortable and among friends. She is still nervous and easily startled when Theo shouts out while playing cards with Luke. When Nell and Theo go to bed Theo reminds her that she’s right next door if Nell needs her. Nell is wakened sometime during the night by a loud banging and still half asleep she thinks her mother is banging on the wall for attention. When Nell realises where she is she is gripped with fear. She hears Theo calling her name and runs through to find a terrified Theo huddled in a blanket. The room is cold and Nell huddles in next to Theo. The noise is like someone pounding in the walls with cannonball as Theo describes it later to Markway. The pounding stops and is replaced the quieter but ghastlier sound of some sort of beast grunting and sniffing around outside the door of Theo’s room. There’s silence and just when Nell thinks it over the pounding comes back louder than ever right at the door. The tension build s up so much Nell feels she has to scream and she shouts for it to stop. The pounding stops but Nell regrets shouting because she’s let whatever is out there know that someone is in the room. Soon the temperature returns to normal, Theo senses that the presence is gone and they hear the voices of Luke and Markway out in corridor. Theo and Nell are laughing with relief when they tell Markway about what happened. Markway and Luke had gone outside chasing some dog that they never caught and Markway suspects that whatever spirit is in the house it deliberately separated them and warns them to be careful.

At breakfast next morning Nell finds just Markway in the dining room and Mrs Dudley serving. Alone with Markway Nell’s thoughts reveal that she’s becoming infatuated with him and she seems unaware that he’s married. Markway seems unaware of her feelings, focused as his on his research and never show s and more than open friendly but always professional interest. Theo comes down and she seems to have turned into a bitch towards Nell but Markway says that it was deliberate attempt to stop Nell feeling frightened. Luke comes down and he has something to show them. In the corridor upstairs some has written “Eleanor help come home,” in massive letters on the wall. Eleanor is angry and scared and she hopes it’s a trick but if not then the spirit in the house knows her name. Theor starts acting like right bitch and accusing Eleanor of wantin attention but she’s just trying to stop Nell being frightened.

As the day goes on Markway gets more concerned with signs of how fragile Nell is and that night he asks Theo to sleep in Nell’s room. Nell objects but Theo assures it could be fun. And they send the time drinking and Nell paints her toenails. She does start to let her guard down a bit as she gets drunk. That night she hears sounds, muffled voices of a woman them a man scolding someone harshly and later of young child weeping. Nervously she grips Theo’s hand in the bed next to hers. She feels Theo’s grip tighten as the sounds of crying grow worse and Nell sit up and cries out for it to stop. Theo puts on the light but she is still in bed across the while Nell is on the now couch. With horror Nell wonders out loud about whose hand she was holding. This scene is the one that always gets me simply by the use of that creepy muffled sound and the reaction of Nell and the constant focus on a pattern in the wallpaper that looks like a distorted face then the payoff.

The following day Markway is making notes on a harp that’s playing itself but he doubts that it’s really supernatural. He makes a statement about scientists who denied existence of magnetism and I doubt that is true but then he is full of metaphysical mumbo jumbo throughout the film. Eleanor reads more into the conversation than Markway intends who was only trying to make her feel better. Later in the parlour Nell gets upset with Theo and runs off. Markway tell Theo to get her back and Nell bites back with a remark aimed at Theo being a lesbian.

A car arrives and it’s Grace Markway (Lois Maxwell) who is concerned that reporters have heard about what Markway is up to. Nell is not happy to find out Markway is married. Grace a compete sceptic about the supernatural and want to sleep in the most haunted part of the house. Markway denies there is such a place and no-one say anything until Nell makes a remark about the nursery. It is very petty and a moment later she tries to take it back but Grace is determined to sleep in the nursery

That night everyone else sleeps in the parlour. There’s a pounding sound again this time at the parlour door and then animal snuffling sounds. There’s a force on the door that causes it to bend in alarmingly. Then it sounds like whatever is in the corridor goes upstairs. Markway tries to get out the door to go up to Grace. But Luke stops him terrified of what could be out there.

Nell goes out another door and runs through the house hearing more noises like the house is falling apart. She follows the noises to the ursery and inside there is no sign of Grace. Markway want to find Grace and Theo and Luke want to leave immediately, Nell doesn’t want to ever leave. Nell wanders off unnoticed by the others until Theo looks for her. Nell has gone into the library and climbed most of the way up the rickety dangerous spiral staircase. Markway follows her up and stops her falling from the balcony. She gets another scare when a panel in wall opens and a very dishevelled Grace pops out before vanishing again.

Everyone is now determined to get Nell away from Hill House immediately much to her protest. Luke is going with her but when he gets out to get the key to the gate from Markway Nell drives off without him. As she drive the steering pulls out of her hands and she crashes into a tree at full speed and is killed. The others leave but Nell got what she wanted and her spirit will remain in Hill House forever.

This film may not have the gore or special effects that are commonplace in modern horror but still manages to put most of them to shame when it comes to the task of creating fear. This is one of my favourite horror films and I love what it achieves through the effective use of sound and the performances of the cast.

Rating 10 /10

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Posted by on October 8, 2012 in Entertainment, Film

 

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Review: The Innkeepers

I enjoyed director Ti West’s film House of the Devil so I was looking forward to seeing to this film but if it appeared in cinemas here in Britain I never saw it so I had to settle for the DVD. It had the same slow build-up of tension with great character development and finishes in a great climax. So many of the modern ghost stories lose it in the third act but I thought this film managed to finish just fine.

The Yankee Pedlar Inn is soon closing its doors for the last time and two employees are left looking after the place while the owner suns himself on a beach on Barbados. Nerdy awkward Claire (Sara Paxton) and geeky college dropout Luke (Pat Healy) want to use the opportunity of the inn being nearly empty to explore the place for signs of ghosts. They are both staying at the hotel themselves so that they can swap shifts on the reception desk. Only one room is occupied, by a woman, who has left her husband for the weekend to teach him a lesson, and her young son.

Another guest arrives; Leanne Reese-Jones (Kelly McGillis) and Claire recognises her as a former TV actress because she’s fan. When Claire takes Lee some towels and tries to talk to her about how much she enjoyed her shows but Lee is just plain bitchy to her and leaves her feeling depressed.

That night Claire is alone at the desk and she decides to try a bit of amateur ghost hunting with a microphone and a tape recorder. She believes the ghost of Madeleine O’Malley haunts the inn after she hung herself when her fiancé left her on her wedding day many decades earlier. Now finally we start getting to the real haunting after a couple of jump scares. As she tries the tape recorder she hears static and faint sounds then a piano playing. There’s a piano in the reception are so she goes through to it and the sound stops. She slowly approaches the piano and something invisible plays two keys.

Claire run upstairs and bashes on the door of Luke’s room to wake him but he’s still half asleep and wants to wait until morning. As she heads downstairs Lee appears at her door to chide her for being so noisy. Claire apologizes then explains to her what she was doing. Lee invites Claire into her room gives her a drink and says she thinks she can help her. Since leaving acting Lee has become a spiritual healer and knows how to contact the spirits. She brings out her crystal pendulum and Claire asks the spirits questions. Lee doesn’t get a very clear answer from them but she does sense danger down the basement and warns Claire not to go down there.

I enjoyed this film. It takes its time to establish the characters and the setting and I felt drawn into the story and keeps the signs of haunting small at first and builds it up to the mad rush of fear at the end. It has some similarities to films like The Haunting by great use of sound to suggest rather than relying on showing CGI spirits. It also focuses completely on Claire and gives the film an ambiguity about whether things are really happening or Claire is just imagining it all.

Rating 7.5/10

 
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Posted by on July 14, 2012 in Entertainment, Film

 

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