Studio: Viva Pictures
Director: Hunter G. Williams
Writer: Hunter G. Williams, Scott Michael Campbell
Producer: Hunter G. Williams, Scott Michael Campbell
Stars: Chris Hayes, Jeff Stearns, Becka Adams, Andrew Olsen, Angelina Lyubomirova, Callie Cameron
The cast and crew of a paranormal reality television show investigate the reportedly haunted Ettersburg Hospital.
Formerly known as “The Whispering Dead,” the movie at hand underwent a title alteration to “The Crying Dead” so that one less syllable and a logo makeover would at least confuse the lettering for being similar to “The Walking Dead.” It was too late to undergo a location change, however, so “The Crying Dead” joins “Reel Evil” (review here) and “616: Paranormal Incident” (review here) as at least the third “found footage” movie to be shot inside Los Angeles’ Linda Vista Hospital. Now the audience can experience déjà vu in both a figurative and a literal sense with an overused plot and an overused set.
Three crewmembers and three cast members are putting together a self-produced pilot episode for yet another ghost hunter reality television series. Their concept of investigating a haunted asylum is so generic that their show does not even have a title. Before arriving at Linda Vi- er, “Ettersburg Hospital” in Northern California, the dirty half dozen first slogs through the requisite slow buildup of loading equipment into an RV, stopping twice for gas station snacks, and getting to know one another’s interchangeable personalities, or lack thereof.
Once everyone is in place on the hospital grounds, Old Man Exposition enters the scene in the form of the building’s caretaker to provide a tour of the facility and to fill in details about its legendary history. Ettersburg has inspired enough spooky campfire tales to stuff a turkey, which is exactly what is happening with the film. Among other things, the hospital has played host to secret experiments for a polio vaccine, a patient who slashed a nurse, a woman with telekinesis, a suicide from the chapel window, stranded loggers that resorted to cannibalism, and a boiler room fire that took the lives of three children.
From there, things crawl slowly along the beaten path with a choking amount of the runtime spent strolling down dusty hallways as the cast, and the audience, waits for anything to happen. Exchanging half of the green tinted night vision shots for a purple hue is what qualifies as the movie’s idea of shaking up the “found footage” formula along the way.
At the 45 minute mark, which is past the halfway point, “The Crying Dead” remembers that it is supposed to be a scary movie and the first person is finally dispatched by the spirits of the three little girls who died in the fire. Of the half dozen or so ghost stories introduced in act one, the movie settles on this tale for its source of supernatural spookiness, rendering all of the other aforementioned distractions largely pointless.
The rest of the group then runs down corridors, explores empty rooms, and waits patiently for their turns to be pulled into the darkness by something unseen. Meanwhile, the insulting lack of anything substantial to offer in either the fright or the originality departments has the viewer wishing to be ghost-grabbed on the ankle, just to finally experience a thrill.
Film critics calling for the demise of the “found footage” sub-genre due to its ongoing oversaturation are throwing the baby out with the bathwater. For every tens movies like “The Crying Dead,” there is still something different like “The Conspiracy” (review here) that makes fishing through the plentiful muck a worthwhile effort.
However, it should be readily conceded that there ought to be an indefinite moratorium on “found footage” films about a paranormal investigation into a haunted asylum. Just until someone actually has cause to say, “you know what I haven’t seen in a while that I’d really like to watch tonight? A shaky cam horror movie with a lot of night vision scenes set in an abandoned building.” As it stands now, that sentence is the only time those words have ever been used together. There may be room yet for more “found footage” in general, but “The Crying Dead” proves that this particular subset is an area well over its maximum occupancy.
Review Score: 20