Studio: 4Digital Media
Director: Andrew Jones
Writer: Andrew Jones
Producer: Andrew Jones
Stars: Lee Bane, Natalie Martins, Jared Morgan, Judith Haley, Tricia Ford, Sam Harding
A father and daughter move into a new home where they become haunted by paranormal activity.
Had I noticed ahead of time that “Poltergeist Activity” was a North Bank Entertainment production, I would have known to set expectations so low that they would resurface in China. Better yet, I would have known to not watch it at all.
With The Asylum striking cable TV gold by merging natural disasters and aquatic animals, thus moving from mockbusters into mutant monster mashups, North Bank has since picked up the mantle of being the go-to gang for churning out economical horror flicks framed around familiar franchises or similar-sounding titles. Being a UK-based company, the difference with North Bank is that their productions include a bevy of British and Welsh actors ending sentences with, “yeah?”
Building their library on titles like “Night of the Living Dead: Resurrection” (review here), “The Amityville Asylum” (review here), and “Silent Night, Bloody Night: The Homecoming,” North Bank’s simple formula for profitability has been unabashedly built on exploiting marketability over memorable moviemaking. Having temporarily exhausted public domain properties to sequelize, the company now turns to another time-tested tactic in DTV distribution of piggybacking on recognition value by hinting vaguely at a callback connotation.
“Paranormal Apparition,” “Paranormal Asylum,” “Paranormal Diaries,” “Paranormal Entity,” “Paranormal Haunting,” “Paranormal Incident,” “Paranormal Island,” et al. have already drained the well of that familiar first word. Time has now come to commandeer the “Activity” part of the title whose success everyone so desperately hopes to duplicate with minimal effort. Tack on “Poltergeist” in a release year with a high-profile remake of the movie with that same name and voila, you’re halfway to a bankable product that practically sells itself.
Why stop there? Might as well whip up box art of a grabby phantom bursting from TV static, even though there isn’t a single television to be found anywhere within the actual movie. Put a "based on a true story" claim at the top, too.
“Poltergeist Activity” opens on a montage of old-timey images featuring sepia-toned snapshots of gargoyles, gravestones, men in mustaches using a Ouija board, even an insert of the Amityville house. How is any of this related? It isn’t. But this is supposedly how cheap atmosphere is established on the quick, yeah? There’s even a random shot of Robert the Doll for no apparent reason other than to foreshadow North Bank’s next project in the pipeline.
Recently widowed David is moving into a new house with his daughter Katherine. I don’t know the age of actress Natalie Martins, but it appears old enough to make scenes of the daughter unpacking stuffed animals and bounding home from school with a high-hairline classmate both laughable and uncomfortable.
Cue the clichéd creepy neighbor imparting a cryptic warning about the house’s horrible history. Seems David and Katherine have inherited a home haunted by a child’s clown doll cursed through voodoo to terrorize those who touch it. Because nothing says frightening like an actor feigning strangulation in the tiny, immobile hands of a foot-long porcelain toy.
There’s also some filler involving robed apparitions in masks who are never given context and assorted secondary characters included only to stretch the duration. “Poltergeist Activity” is just 72 minutes short, yet is fully aware it doesn’t possess enough plot to plug up even that limited space.
Character development consists of the daughter reminiscing about her dead mother in a four-minute monologue while dad does the same in a seven-minute one later, even though their revelations mean nothing and the mother never features in the film. A parapsychologist is introduced in a five-minute sequence of being berated by skeptics at a bookstore appearance. Not only is his extended intro useless, so is his character. The parapsychologist’s real purpose is simply to bring in a séance-conducting medium to help with the haunting. The medium’s purpose in turn is to continue stalling the runtime, engaging in an automatic writing session where she can only write one word at a time on single sheets of paper. “You… are… all… going… to… die.” Get on with it already.
Even the credits are needlessly padded. The end scroll is a full 10 minutes, with a chunk of that time occupied by even more sepia-toned still shots interspersed between title cards.
Frames occasionally lose focus and/or depict overexposed exteriors. Dialogue echoes off narrow walls and cars are heard speeding outside an open door even though the setting is secluded countryside. From a naked face in one shot to wearing glasses in the next, or an object jumping from the right hand to the left, continuity is inconsistent. These are minor enough infractions that “Poltergeist Activity” cannot exactly be classified as careless filmmaking, though there are certainly camera shots and script beats where the apparent attitude is, “eh, good enough.”
“Poltergeist Activity” is a film made for function. Even the producers are unlikely to argue that the intention is anything above speedily pumping out a by-the-basics production before resetting the assembly line and going again on the next one.
“Poltergeist Activity” is the cinema equivalent of ramen noodles, for regrettable lack of a superior analogy. No one ever has a hankering for something so basic. No one would ever eat it if better options were available. But when it is within arm’s reach in the cupboard, it’ll do the lazy job of ordinary sustenance in a pinch. Once the cup goes in the trash, so does all memory of the meal.
NOTE: There is a brief post-credits scene.
Review Score: 30