on April 21, 2012
In short, this is one of the most clumsily written, acted and directed movie I have ever seen. The plot could have been written for a young adult church group, which is not just to say that it has some sort of Christian message (that would not be an issue), but that it could only appeal to someone whose view of spirituality spins on the axis of American non-denominationalism. The result is a horror movie that fails in every respect with the added embarrassment of being preachy and generally idiotic.
Here, I'll spoil the story for you. A team of television ghost hunters are called by a man of extreme wealth who was released from prison (charges unmentioned) as he is due for his imminent death from pancreatic cancer. He also happens to be the owner of a closed asylum for the insane which is purported to be haunted by some vicious, murderous spirits. The deal is that they get one weekend with the asylum for their 50th episode (hence the name - see what they did?). Why? The man has lived a pretty horrendous life, as he says "I have broken every one of God's ten commandments". He wants to know if the asylum is haunted because if it is, that somehow means he will spend eternity burning in Hell. Enter our psuedo-anti-hero, a man of broken faith who runs the aforementioned group of television ghost hunters with his childhood friend, an annoying man of ambiguous Latin descent and the token pretty girl. The team is well established as using the powers of reason and observation to debunk spiritual encounters, so it seems the rich man is really hoping to clear his mind when they come back with a rational explanation for the hauntings. The catch to all of this is that they have to work with a team of rival, faith-based investigators... for some reason. Personal conflict ensues while the characters all prepare for a night of "investigating". Throughout an unspecified amount of time, horrible special effects are caught on high-definition cameras with cheesy filters applied. The nonsensical plot devices continue until the full story is revealed in one anti-climactic scene (last chance, here be real spoilers). An inmate who had been brought in for the astonishing crime of raping and killing 7 women had killed his 8th victim while in the asylum - the nurse who is briefly alluded to in the beginning and then poorly animated later on when she pops into view for cheap scares. The kicker? He was murdering as a part of some undefined Satanic ritual (I kid you not) and by invoking him during the investigation, they allowed him to take his 9th victim in the young psychic from the rival investigation team. Now a portal to Hell can open and... I dunno. I'm sure if I went to my local mega-church more, I would be indoctrinated with all sorts of silly ideas about what will happen when those pesky Satanists open portals to Hell. In this movie, however, all that happens is that the now demon-ghost-ex-murderer stands in front of a burning, inverted pentagram with horns sticking out of his forehead until our anti-hero regains his faith and dispels the demon with a cross and incantation. All the while - even while the young psychic gets her neck snapped and one of the other investigators gets gored, the idiotic camera men follow the investigators around like loyal puppies, never once flinching at the horrors around them. In the end, of course, our anti-hero dies, along with the lead investigator from the rival team, and enough footage makes its way to the wealthy ex-con, who sobs quietly while we take in the movie's message: repent, or burn in Hell.
Oh yeah, and the crazy, Satanic inmate? He died of AIDS. Hey, if it's important enough for the movie to point out, it's important enough for my review. Why they made a point of it I will leave to your speculation.
Sadly, with a production budget several magnitudes higher than some other, decent independent horror movies, the writer/directors seemed to care more about their preaching than creating something worth watching. It seems like the actors didn't even try in most parts, though I can't honestly expect them to fulfill the superhuman task of delivering such poorly written dialog with any degree of emotion or realism. There was no atmosphere to the movie and all of the ghosty things popped out of the screen like Halloween decorations. It was as though the director has never even had a nightmare, but tried to appeal to what they think "the kids" will think is scary. The camera work is, I think, supposed to be from the 2nd person point of view that is outrageously popular in Paranormal Activity, Grave Encounters and others. However, it switches awkwardly at times without explanation and what we end up with is confusing and disingenuous. It did not work in the Doom movie, it does not work here. Stay in one perspective, directors, or at least justify the change very, very well!
All in all, I am actually upset that I watched this movie. I'm glad that I only rented it, but I have to forever live with the fact that I gave these people a portion of money that I earned honestly. The best that I can hope for at this point is to post this review around and hope that I can save others from the same fate.
My favorite line, "A portal has to open on a Satanic symbol, like an inverted pentagram or something, right?". Yeah, sure. Makes sense.