The Paranormal Incident (2012)
According to IMDB this film had a budget of $3.1 million dollars, which genuinely surprised me. Filmed like a student’s passion project, the credits are laced with Matthew Bolton’s name, who directs, writes, produces and even made the DVD menus (bless him). Having watched the film I expected a budget of less than £100,000… and certainly nowhere near the 3 million dollars mark!
Why? A film like Mum & Dad was made for approximately £100,000 and similar Found Footage projects like The Tunnel (135,000 AUD) and Episode 50 (£1.34 million) have significantly less budget. Gareth Evans’ Monsters was made for $800,000!
Why am I mentioning budget? I find budget is always worth taking into consideration when reviewing a film. If it’s been made for pennies and is still great (see Colin) then praise is due and if it’s a bit rough-around-the-edges then you sometimes give a little benefit of the doubt. Unless it’s really genuinely awful (see Zombie Undead) then there’re no excuses for laziness or bad scripting.
The Paranormal Incident falls into a strange new category. A film with a significant budget (over 3 million dollars is a huge budget for a small found footage horror film) that manages to look like it’s been made for £6.55 and some favours. It truly looks cheap and shoddy and the budget reveal stunned me. What did they spend it on? Catering? Did they BUY a sanatorium?!
Anyway, on with the review. What is the plot of The Paranormal Incident? Well – and stop me if you’ve heard this synopsis before – but a group of student filmmakers go to an abandoned mental asylum armed with lots of night-vision cameras and blah blah blah ghosts appear blah blah blah history of evil doctors revealed blah people split up blah people die / go mental blah yawn blah eject disc. Blah.
It begins with a deeply dull and hilariously elusive conversation between hospitalised student John (Oliver Rayon) and some kind of unconvincing FBI / CIA / secret service woman. All his friends are dead, apparently killed in the derelict ruins of Odenbrook Sanitarium, having locked themselves inside for some media studies project
The sinister cop-lady asks John what happened in there and his answer is…
… suddenly we’re thrown into a Found Footage film! Eh?! No explanation! We’re suddenly watching camera footage of young people preparing for a night at Odenbrook.
Only fifteen minutes later do we realize the FBI / CIA / Police lady is showing John the footage on a TV in his massively unconvincing hospital room. The footage is perfectly-spliced and edited. It also features some people fucking at home. It also has locations printed on-screen, which is convenient. There are even subtitles for the ghosts!!
This survivor watching the tapes back with the police idea is an interesting attempt at an original twist on a tired story, but doesn’t make any fucking sense whatsoever and the jumping back to ‘now’ is actually really intrusive.
The script delivers us a plethora of incredibly dumb characters, most of which are deeply unbelievable. When our main character introduces himself as “I’m John and I’m a Tech head” you realize the writer had no clue what they were doing.
The script is shockingly on-the-nose and literally without subtext. Everyone just says what they feel, including the ghosts! It is also very very childish.
Remember $3.4 million dollars was spent on this? The major problem with The Paranormal Incident is the absolute lack of believability in anything you’re seeing. Apparently Odenbrook Sanatorium was closed down 60 years ago after a mass suicide (of course) but the asylum looks like 10 completely different buildings, some of which have collapsed roofs and dusty corners and others that are clearly BRAND NEW! No dust! Perfectly painted! Utterly ridiculous!
If you like your films remotely logical then seriously avoid this dangerously dumb bag of cackbadgers. It’s so bad it’s almost a parody. So much is wrong with it, from the diabolical acting to the obviously made-up location names (“South Tower” is a corridor of cells and “Maximum Security” has a dining hall in the middle of it!!). The tension building never pays off and the scares are as cunning as someone SCREAMING at noises.
Only actors Chelsea Vincent and Derrick Scott actually seem to be competent at their jobs, whilst everyone else (cast, director, writer) fall incredibly short. Incidentally Derrick Scott was the best thing about Moby Dick; a great actor in some terrible films. Someone get this man a new agent!!
If this film had been made for £50,000 then I could forgive some of the massive misfires on display here, but for a simple found footage film to cost $3.1 MILLION DOLLARS and turn out like a dull, idiotic and awfully acted turd is unacceptable.