A HAUNTING AT SILVER FALLS (2013)

Studio:       Outsider Pictures
Director:    Brett Donowho
Writer:       Cam Cannon, Rachel Long, Brian Pittman
Producer:  Rick Dugdale
Stars:     Steve Bacic, Tara Westwood, Tadgh Kelly, James Cavlo, Erick Avari, Alix Elizabeth Gitter

Review Score

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Summary:

When a young girl finds a mysterious ring in the woods of Silver Falls, she begins to see haunting images of twin sisters with a unique connection to her own family tree. 


Synopsis:     

Review:

“Inspired by True Events” is usually an indication that the story for a film is completely made up.  If that is the case for “A Haunting in Silver Falls,” then the writers could benefit from a little more imagination.  But if they are indeed beholden to the facts of a supposed “true story,” they might have been better off ditching that angle entirely and coming up with something that made more sense.

One thing that any viewer should know before going in is that “A Haunting at Silver Falls” is not a horror film.  It is a mystery.  There is a pair of creepy ghosts, but aside from a near drowning in a bathtub that may or may not have been a hallucination, nothing truly sinister ever takes place.  A woman is pulled away by something unseen in a brief prologue, but otherwise there are no macabre deaths or paranormal scares to be found here.  Unless a bedroom door that opens by itself is considered frightening.

After the death of her father, teenager Jordan is forced to move away from the bright lights and big city of L.A. to live with her Aunt Anne and Uncle Kevin in a rural town near Silver Falls.  One night in the woods, Jordan finds a ring on the ground that ends up taking residence on her index finger.  After that, she discovers that the ring cannot be removed.  Even worse, she is now plagued by recurring dreams and visions of a ghostly young woman.

The mystery of who the ghostly visage is and what she wants is the movie’s central plotline.  Since the events involve a ghost, technically it is a haunting.  But this is one of those ghosts that wants to deliver a message from beyond the grave rather than to commit any form of demonic mischief.

Compared to previous efforts “No Tell Motel” (review here) and “The Speak” (review here), the latter of which has a cameo in this film as the featured title on a cinema marquee, “A Haunting at Silver Falls” marks an improvement for director Brett Donowho and Outsider Pictures.  Unfortunately, this movie still cannot be recommended, but there is some promise in realizing that Donowho is not caught on the artistic plateau that plagues so many low-budget independent horror filmmakers.

           James Cavlo as Larry and Zach Galligan: Separated at birth? 

           James Cavlo as Larry and Zach Galligan: Separated at birth? 

“Silver Falls” starts out with the promise of offering some unique charm.  From that aforementioned trio of Donowho films, the acting here is the best of the lot.  Playing the central heroine, Alix Elizabeth Gitter actually looks like the age she is portraying and has more to offer onscreen than just her good looks.  In an atypical move, the cute, trendy girl from Los Angeles has landed the nerdiest guy in school as her boyfriend.  James Cavlo as Larry channels his best “Gremlins”-era Zach Galligan in the role.  He earns smiles in a scene where Uncle Kevin forces Larry to chug a glass of milk before taking out his niece, as that is supposed to make the boy’s stomach less likely to try the same thing with a beer.  Reliable character actor Erick Avari makes an appearance as Larry’s father, who is also the therapist to his son’s girlfriend.  Wait, what?  How does that work?

If that silly conflict of interest were the script’s greatest transgression, it might be a simpler matter to look the other way.  Alas, there are a bevy of moments in the film that arrive bearing a brightly lit question mark during their appearances.

I personally have never tried procuring a Death Row visit for a teenaged girl not related to the prisoner mere hours before his execution.  But I am unwilling to give “Silver Falls” the benefit of the doubt that it could be arranged in less time than it takes to order a pizza.  Although they do have an odd way of doing certain things in that backwards town.  When Anne and Kevin decide that they should lock up their niece while they step out for the evening, they choose the bathroom over her bedroom.  That makes it easier for the ghost to try drowning Jordan, which in itself makes no sense given the ghost’s ultimate purpose, but makes it harder for the audience to respect the scripting.  Once “A Haunting at Silver Falls” puts all of its cards on the table, it is still unclear exactly how all of the story elements tie together.  The film flops to an ending mired in a twist that does not add up given the events that transpired up to that point.

Had the script been able to meet the capabilities of the performers, the end result may have fared better.  With three writers credited, it stands to reason that at least one of them could have come up with something scarier than what this film offers and something more intriguing than the PG-13 mystery that comprises its core.  That mystery unfolds like a trail of breadcrumbs.  And as each piece is picked up, it becomes clear that the puzzle being put together simply does not hold enough interest for this movie to leave a lasting impression.

Review Score:  35