Studio: Movies Independent
Director: Abe Rosenberg
Writer: Abe Rosenberg, Joseph Hemsani
Producer: Joseph Hemsani, Abe Rosenberg, Claudio Sodi
Stars: Michel Chavet, Anna Cetti, Marco Escalante, Juan Luis Tovar
Four amateur filmmakers investigate an abandoned hospital reportedly haunted by paranormal activity in Mexico City.
The ironic thing about “Archivo 253” is that it is actually only the 252nd “found footage” horror film about amateur documentarians investigating a reportedly haunted hospital. Normally, I might blush about choosing to open on such a cheap and easy quip. Except with “Archivo 253” taking the most tired template available to slap together something uninventive, unimaginative, and interminably boring, why should I attempt to be clever, creative, or original when no one associated with this movie did?
Built in 1954, the San Rafael Clinic in Mexico City closed in 2009 amid rumors of experiments and exorcisms taking place within its haunted hallways. What’s astonishing about that sentence isn’t that it constitutes the full, unabridged extent of background motivating the plot, but that it took two credited screenwriters to come up with a story so thin, it must have evaporated into the air before being put to paper.
In 2012, amateur investigators Diego, Isabela, Charly, and Mateo put EMF detectors in their pockets and cameras in their backpacks only to disappear within the clinic’s walls while searching for evidence of the supernatural. Character names are included here since that is the only way to distinguish who anyone is. Not one of them has a personality to speak of and the only other option for describing anyone would be through a physical characteristic, e.g. “the one with glasses,” “the big guy with a beard,” or simply, “the woman.”
Although title text explains the intrepid foursome was never seen again, a construction crew demolishing the building in 2013 found their footage. Unfortunately, that means an audience now has to sit through their Ambien-alternative exploration of dust, dirt, and empty rooms that somehow requires the group being in the building three full days, despite next to nothing happening.
After an EMF detector barely produces a blip, and an EVP recording session results in even less, things get spooky on the start of Day Two when the group discovers a glow stick left hanging in a hallway the night before has gone missing. Pardon me a moment while I change my pants from sheer terror.
For reasons unknown, a prepositional phrase that could be used liberally in any discussion of “Archivo 253,” the group continues its urban spelunking with a camera flipped into night-vision mode almost exclusively. The pointless technique ensures complete exhaustion with green-tinted visuals well before the quartet’s first of several encounters with a floor filled by human hair, a fright device about as effectively unsettling as a disappeared glow stick.
Under different circumstances, a spoiler warning would be included before the following paragraph. However, since what happens during the film’s climax is entirely indecipherable, it is quite literally impossible to spoil.
For the finale, the last person standing frantically flees the haunted hospital before confronting a courtyard corner of brick and mortar. Now, I rewound this final ten seconds no less than four times trying to positively determine exactly what happens and as near as I can tell, a metal grate appears to burst from the ground and fly into the air as the camera falls sideways to the floor. If you go into the subsequent cut to black confused as to what this means, take comfort in knowing that the filmmakers likely have no idea either.
A similarly baffling moment occurs a few minutes earlier when the remaining investigators find someone holding a blinking EMF detector and suddenly enter a full sprint frenzy. I think this was the person they were looking for and s/he may or may not have been dead. When I went back after the end credits to take a second look, the still frames Netflix captures at 10-second intervals were such a flurry of blurry night-vision nonsense and pitch black that it was virtually impossible to pinpoint where this scene, or any other scene for that matter, even was in the runtime. That is the type of mess this movie is.
“Archivo 253” is awarded one star out of ten only because it qualifies, on a technical level anyway, as a movie. Challenging myself to come up with one reason why anyone would possibly be interested in “Archivo 253,” all I could muster as a positive point of uniqueness is that it is a “found footage” film in Spanish. Then I remembered “[REC]” (review here) and “Atrocious” already tick that box, with the latter title doubling as a one-word review for “Archivo 253.”
“Worst (fill in the blank) ever” is usually hyperbole overemphasizing negative sentiment. In this particular case, be advised that anyone wrapping those words around nouns used in description of “Archivo 253” is almost certainly not exaggerating. The horror genre has absolutely no use for this movie. Neither do you.
Review Score: 10