Studio: Reality Films
Director: Philip Gardiner
Writer: Philip Gardiner
Producer: John Symes, Philip Gardiner
Stars: John Symes, Andrew Gough, Suzy Deakin, Matthew Sheppard, Kerrie Denning, Amy Hall, Elle Louise Wood
On the centennial event of a blue moon, a group gathers to investigate a reportedly haunted inn and encounters strange occurrences of witchcraft and the occult.
The other day I was having lunch with a friend. As is often the case when he and I meet, our discussion turned to films. On this particular occasion, the topic became Steven Spielberg. More specifically, my friend was espousing on the Academy Award worthiness of “Munich” and how aspects of it have been perceived as metaphor for 9/11. I had little to contribute to this tangent as I mentioned that my recollection of the film was foggy, having not seen “Munich” since it was first released in 2006. My friend recommended that I revisit “Munich” when I returned home. To provide a laugh, I quipped a half-joke/half-truth, “I can’t. I’m too busy reviewing ‘Paranormal Haunting – The Curse of the Blue Moon Inn’ for my website.”
Of course, that will be the only time the words “Spielberg” and “Academy Award” will ever appear anywhere near “Paranormal Haunting” or that either will be mentioned in relation to this film. The point I really wish to make is that this is the peril of operating a website specializing in low-budget independent horror. Time better spent on anything else is regrettably given to movies like “Paranormal Haunting.”
“Paranormal Haunting” is an exercise in poor filmmaking choices. The end product is a peculiar brand of bad. It all starts with the visuals.
The friend I mentioned several sentences ago has critiqued my Culture Crypt reviews as being too self-referential. Since entertainment value is subjective, I will refrain from comparing even my most boring anecdote to the story of this movie. But I will say that my anecdotes at least make more sense. My own career behind the camera in motion pictures was cut short when around the age of 23, I developed cataracts in both of my eyes. That is not something that normally afflicts someone under retirement age, but it happened and they have long since been removed. I have been asked on several occasions what it looked like to see through a cataract and it is somewhat difficult to explain. Now that I have seen “Paranormal Haunting,” I have a visual reference I can provide instead.
Watching “Paranormal Haunting” is like looking through a cataract. Bright spots are blown out like an old-time photograph of a 1920’s silver screen ingénue while darks melt together like road tar at midnight. The entire frame is then fogged and blurred to the point where having a bottle of Visine at the ready for relieving sore eyes would be a smart idea.
The bizarre look of the film is not limited to the footage, either. It is also cut together in a strange manner. I am trying to visualize how decisions were made in the editing room. “You know what we need here? Instead of a cut or a fade, let’s have a circle transition that ripples like a water droplet. Only put it here and nowhere else. No, I can’t tell you why, I just feel like it.” It seems less of a stylistic choice and more of a “what can this button do?” approach when it came time for assembly.
Not to be outdone, the sound fails on every level from dialogue to music. IMDB lists the budget for “Paranormal Haunting” at £2,000. I will wager the same amount that none of that money was used on a boom mic, since the audio quality appears directly related to the distance the actors are from the camera. Forget about distinguishing any words during a long shot. The dialogue bounces off of the walls like a verbal superball.
The soundtrack is a mix of folk, rock, punk, and other genres that do not necessarily fit together. Which is okay because the points at which music is placed in the film do not go together either. Music tracks randomly begin and end without any regard for what may be happening onscreen. Songs with lyrics are even played during dialogue, as if it was not already enough of a challenge to make out what was being said.
I will not even bother discussing the story. I am not sure the filmmakers did, either. It had something to do with a curse, a blue moon, and an inn. That is what I gathered from the title anyway. The movie itself did not really fill in the blanks. I also gathered that there would be paranormal hauntings. Other than one or two things knocked over by an invisible force, I would say those two words from the title are misleading.
However unfavorable my opinion of a film is, I always try to mention something positive. Even bad movies are often made with good intentions, and I take no pleasure in undermining what may have been genuine passion or a lengthy commitment from some or even all of the cast and crew. Philip Gardiner and his friends maybe had sincere intentions. However, the only good thing I can say is that the box cover is okay. (Though it turns out that the art is actually ripped off from a different movie, "Ghosts of Goldfield.") Every other detail is that aforementioned “peculiar brand of bad.” The opening title sequence includes dancing silhouettes straight out of the 007 credits. While everyone else is dressed in scarves, hats, collared jackets, etc., the hotel caretaker wears a Hot Topic hoody. Each time something could have gone one way or another, the film always chooses a questionable direction.
Anyone who makes it to the end credits may notice that each one of the actors pulled double duty as another crewmember on the film. Cast names appear a second time under every heading from Camera and Props to SFX Make-up. This is what one ends up with after enlisting a group of friends and acquaintances to put something together and call it a movie. Had their ages been at least ten years younger, I would have thought this a failed film school project that was mistakenly given a professional release. Sadly, it appears everyone involved was old enough to know better.
Review Score: 0