Studio: The Asylum
Director: Anthony Fankhauser
Writer: Anthony Fankhauser
Producer: Paul Bales, David Michael Latt, David Rimawi
Stars: James Arthur Lewis, Matthew Temple, Michael Gaglio, Brett Newton, Diana Terranova, Sylvia Panacione, Rachel Riley
A paranormal research team investigates the home built on the site of John Wayne Gacy’s house at 8213 West Summerdale Avenue.
A new pinnacle in criticism of The Asylum has definitely been achieved when a David Mamet film can be referenced while discussing one of their productions. William H. Macy plays a director and Phillip Seymour Hoffman is a screenwriter in Mamet’s “State and Main.” In it, the duo takes a crew to shoot their movie “The Old Mill” in a small Vermont town. Trouble is, once everyone is geared up to roll camera, they discover that the town’s mill actually burned to the ground decades earlier. Nonplussed that they are making a movie titled “The Old Mill” without actually having an old mill, the show goes on anyway.
I’d like to imagine that a similar scene occurred in real life during production of “8213: Gacy House.” Right off the bat, the premise is working from a sizable hole. Namely, John Wayne Gacy’s house at 8213 West Summerdale Avenue was demolished in 1979.
It is worth asking the question of whether or not the filmmakers knew this before starting production. Because even though opening text clarifies that a new home was built on the property in 1982, the characters of “Gacy House” never seem to be in on the fact that they are not in Gacy’s original house.
The paranormal research team investigating the premises makes exclamations like, “Can you believe that? Wow!” and, “this is amazing” with overly excited reverence for a structure that isn’t even a replica, but an entirely new building. Did they start filming under a different pretense only to discover afterwards that the facts told a different tale?
Regardless, there is a strangely admirable quality about the filmmakers shrugging their shoulders over a key detail. They acknowledge that they have a creative deficit and then charge straight forward with a head-down bum rush solution that sort of addresses the situation, albeit in a way that fails to make complete sense.
This trend continues throughout “8213: Gacy House.” Whenever there is a continuity error or a lull in the action that requires resolution, the movie employs the first thing that comes to mind without a care for how its story will be perceived by a real audience.
Case in point: the film would be nowhere near as guiltily entertaining without the presence of the most questionably qualified psychic ever depicted onscreen. Dressed to resemble a stripper in street clothes, as she has just one button fastened on her blouse, Janina the spirit medium is the movie’s unintentional comic relief. Her bizarre character is so off the wall that it makes this by-the-numbers “found footage” yawner infinitely more bearable.
It is an absolute gas watching the psychic coax John Wayne Gacy’s spirit out of hiding by using the “pure” soccer shirt of a 15-year-old boy as a lure. The idea is tastelessly absurd, yet no more unashamedly silly than anything else going on in the film. Janina’s nursery rhyme mantras about clowns and young boys are just as ridiculous. The best part is how perfectly straight the actors play off her nonsense as if these are genuine ghost hunting techniques.
Like so many of its “found footage” brethren, “8213: Gacy House” bogs itself down with eyelid-drooping scenes of researchers debating the validity of light bulb hotspots and setting up surveillance cameras with the worst video quality possible. Sensing the audience’s boredom, “Gacy House” spikes the punch with howlers like Gacy’s ghost yanking down a crewmember’s pants and pulling him into the basement to presumably phantom rape him.
A flesh wound is also an excuse for Janina to open her top wider than necessary for the actress’ ample bosom to burst from her bra, areola peeks and all. Later, the film tires of the foreplay and just tears her blouse off completely for no reason other than to commit a pair of nipples to film. The T&A quotient even benefits from a sex scene between two crewmembers who apparently forgot that they are being recorded for all eyes to see on the very cameras they helped set up.
These are not the brightest bulbs to begin with, though. When the paranormal activity finally starts occurring, one of the investigators remarks, “this isn’t really what I signed up for.” Are you sure about that? Because I think it is. I mean, what else did you want to have happen during a paranormal investigation into a serial killer’s haunted property?
“8213: Gacy House” is only as good as it needs to be, and to that extent, it delivers all that a rote ghost investigation thriller ever could. Which may not be much, but it is what should be anticipated. Bear in mind, this is a “found footage” horror film from The Asylum centered on a dead pedophile serial killer wearing clown makeup. Just how “good” does anyone expect it to be?
NOTE: “Gacy House” was released in Europe as “Paranormal Entity 2.”
Review Score: 60