Studio: Phase 4 Films
Director: Byron Turk
Writer: JL Stremberg, Sean Skinner
Producer: Byron Turk, Jean Louise O’Sullivan, Cosimo Mariano
Stars: Jean Louise O’Sullivan, Zachary Fletcher, Dante Zucca, Randy Bates, Robert Haag, D’Arcy Webb, Ryan Dunn, Bam Margera
After a girl dies during a performance at a haunted hayride, her best friend uncovers a mystery that leads to more murders at the Halloween attraction.
First things first. “The Bates Haunting” has no association whatsoever with the more familiar “Bates Motel,” Norman Bates, or anything at all related to the “Psycho” franchise. The other important thing to know going in is that the movie was made by a cast and crew so wet behind the ears that their heads are dunked under water.
The film borrows the “Bates” in its title from a real-life Halloween attraction in Glen Mills, Pennsylvania named “The Bates Motel and Haunted Hayride.” Operated by Randy Bates, who also appears in the film, the fortuitous last name of its owner presumably skirts any potential lawsuits regarding copyright infringement. (Randy reportedly has a trademark on the name.) This popular farmland haunt serves both as the story’s setting and as the shooting location for “The Bates Haunting.”
The website for the actual “Bates Motel and Haunted Hayride” boasts “amazing props, digital FX, great actors and extraordinary professional makeup” as well as “huge, detailed sets, giant monsters and more pyrotechnics than a Kiss concert.” If only the movie were able to make this same claim without its nose growing like Pinocchio’s, then the DVD would not be relegated to a dismal fate of bargain bin obscurity.
Aspiring young actress Lily Hanson dies horribly in a fire-related mishap during a performance at the ominously named haunted hayride. On the advisement of her father and her doctor one year later, Lily’s still devastated best friend Agnes takes a job at the same Halloween attraction. Why a therapist and a concerned parent would both consider such an action to be therapeutic is beyond comprehension. But that really is the least of the script’s issues. Launching from this setup, “The Bates Haunting” becomes a slasher-themed “murder mystery” that features plenty of the former and none of the latter.
On the eve of opening day, the gruesome deaths pick up right where they left off the previous October. As the body count rises, Agnes finds herself mired deeper in the whodunit. And surviving the ordeal requires Agnes to discover the killer’s identity before she becomes the final victim.
Technically, it would be inaccurate to say that the majority of the inexperienced cast cannot act. Maybe they can. They just do not do it in this particular movie. Between a newscaster who looks ready to burst into laughter as she delivers grim details about a body found in eighteen pieces and a father who dispenses useless insight such as, “sometimes bad things happen. It’s a tragedy. But it’s a part of life,” identifying the most unbearable element of “The Bates Haunting” is a tossup.
Smart money for that dishonor might be on a soundtrack ripped from a forgotten episode of Scooby-Doo. The music features the most cartoonish synth pieces this side of Saturday morning. And for a story fixed inside of a Halloween maze, there is not a single jolt, fright, scare, or surprise to be found.
Over lit sets. Bizarre performances. Random appearances from “Jackass” alums. Anyone able to soldier through to the end of the amateurish production will have their martyrdom rewarded with an inane resolution that makes as little sense as everything else in the movie.
“The Bates Motel and Haunted Hayride” reads like a thoroughly enjoyable night of Halloween fun, and it probably is. But the movie based around the maze does it exactly zero favors as an appealing commercial. With so many more enjoyable Halloween and haunt themed horror movies out on the market, “The Bates Haunting” is an easy pass. Feel sorry for the poor fans of the Pennsylvania attraction that blindly take this movie home and are then forced to give it a permanent residence buried deep in the closet.
NOTE: "The Bates Haunting" was originally titled “Welcome to the Bates Motel.”
Review Score: 20