Studio: Well Go USA
Director: Michael David Pate
Writer: Michael David Pate, Ecki Ziedrich
Producer: Till Schmerbeck, Miguel Angelo Pate
Stars: Sonja Gerhardt, Tim Oliver Schultz, Nilam Farooq, Lisa-Marie Koroll, Emilio Sakraya, Timmi Trinks, Farine Flebbe, Maxine Kazis, Davis Schulz
Viral video stars encounter paranormal activity while filming a fear challenge inside Berlin’s haunted Heilstatten hospital.
20 years have passed since “The Blair Witch Project” (review here) birthed the “found footage” boom. It’s been 10 years since the gimmick’s popularity peaked with the first “Paranormal Activity” (review here). And yet somehow, filmmakers who really ought to know better by now are still plopping out redundant first-person flicks like cinema sadists taking their whips to Secretariat’s corpse.
20thCentury Fox, a big Hollywood studio in desperate need of someone with a better read on hot versus cold trends, presents “Haunted Hospital: Heilstatten,” a movie so generic that its subgenre is part of the title. It’d be like calling “Friday the 13th” “Teen Slasher: Crystal Lake.”
Written and directed by Michael David Pate, credits claim “Haunted Hospital: Heilstatten” is “based on an original screenplay by Ecki Ziedrich.” You could replace Ziedrich’s name with one of a thousand pulled out of a hat, given that “Heilstatten” mimics countless similar movies where hapless twentysomethings explore a cursed building with a camera.
“Heilstatten” has about as much originality as you’d expect for being the umpteen hundredth “found footage” film featuring an abandoned asylum. Roughly the only thing somewhat different about this setup is that instead of aspiring filmmakers or amateur ghost hunters, the protagonists are obnoxious YouTube celebrities like Logan Paul or whoever, so yay!
You know the drill. The titular location is an abandoned asylum where cruel Nazi scientists once experimented on helpless tuberculosis patients. Homeless people are also known to commit suicide there, which is a refreshing change of pace from the priest who usually hangs himself, thereby cursing the property.
Being set near Berlin, the movie mentions that Hitler even stayed there once while recovering from a grenade in WWI. As if that’s not already enough evil stirred into the soup, there’s also a vague connection to real-life serial killer ‘The Beast of Beelitz,’ who smacked a baby against a tree before strangling the mother and raping her dead body. Cheery stuff!
You know the next drill too. Are you ready to watch a lot of filler featuring the movie’s main sixsome setting up cameras, flinching at shadows, and endlessly bickering with one another? How about plenty of peeling paint, creepy dolls, overturned wheelchairs in cobwebbed corridors, and flashlights sweeping across drop cloths in green-tinted night vision?
Man oh man, what excitement! I bet you’re just licking your lips with anticipation over the prospect of seeing someone crying into the lens while recording a confessional video. Gee, where have I seen literally every scene in this movie before?
The closest “Haunted Hospital: Heilstatten” comes to some sort of poignant commentary concerning its social media star subjects is one man remarking, “because of you, and that stuff you do all day, our youth is going stupid.” He should direct that criticism at everyone still setting their “found footage” films inside ominous old buildings.
“Heilstatten” winds down with a twist, which has also been done before, that may please people for whom such surprises can redeem routine. For the rest of us struggling to stifle disinterested yawns, 90 minutes is way too long for something so rote. What meager incentives “Heilstatten” offers for staying awake until the end aren’t nearly enticing enough.
The Well Go USA home video release of the German-language film, whose cover hilariously highlights the obscene pull quote “a must-see for all horror fans,” contains both dubbed and subtitled versions of the movie. Definitely don’t watch the dubbed version. Not only are the voice actors awful, but the only way you’ll ever remember “Haunted Hospital: Heilstatten” among the glut of “found footage” asylum movies is by referring to it as, “that one that’s in German.” If you don’t have that, how can you ever distinguish it at all?
Review Score: 35