Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Kiwi Paranormal Activity, or Thoughts on The Dead Room

New Zealand has a creative and vibrant film industry that is often overshadowed by Peter Jackson and his Wellington mafia; gems like What We Do in The Shadows (2014), Jane Campion’s Top of The Lake TV series (2013), and the quirky ghost story Housebound (2014) can get lost in the storm of dragons and giant eagles.  The landscape is very cinematic, deep lakes hide dark secrets and hint at hidden terrors and in The Dead Room (2015) a team of ghost hunters explore an atmospheric, abandoned farmhouse that seems bigger on the inside with fading wallpaper, long hallways and the requisite creepy nursery and dream catcher wind chime.
Jed Brophy, most famous outside of New Zealand as Nori from The Hobbit (2012) as Liam, the tech expert who sets up all the cameras but this is thankfully not a found footage film.  The movie toys with the idea of what happens when skeptics are confronted with actual proof of the supernatural, and the poltergeist activity starts slow with heavy footprints and slamming doors before graduating to more violent and physically threatening shenanigans.
Laura Peterson portrays Holly, the goth psychic photographer who carries the bulk of the plot, as only she can see the ghost, which comes across as hyperventilating psychic panic attacks, whereas we as the audience only see the slamming doors, shaky chandeliers and the tossed furniture.  Jeffrey Thomas stars as Scott, the intellectual skeptic ghost hunter, which seems like cognitive dissonance but may simply be the fate of every ghost hunter.  He sets up laser motion sensors, measures magnetic fields and attempts to dispel the ghost with sound waves with a machine straight out of The Legend of Hell House (1973).
The Dead Room has been criticized as not scary enough and granted it does not rely on distracting and convoluting exposition, jump scares, POV shots or any of the lazy scares contemporary audiences have become accustomed to with movies like Paranormal Activity (2007) or The Conjuring (2013).  All ghost stories at their heart are unsolved murder mysteries, and while The Dead Room alludes to the events that led up to this haunting, the origin story remains obscured and mysterious and without that resolution the movie remains emotionally unsatisfying.  But it’s a gorgeous haunted house movie, with a real 70’s retro-horror vibe to it, a softer The Evil Dead (1981) with a dash of the UK ghost hunter movie The Borderlands (2013).

my first novel?  thanks for asking:)  it’s a the first book in a 4-volume supernatural martial arts series chock full of killer kung-fu witches, haunted carnivals, punk rock assassins, and a 24-hour diner with the best pie in town…
read for free on kindle unlimited or buy the paperback, available at fine bookstores everywhere (amazon).