Episode 50, 2011.
Directed by Joe Smalley and Tess Smalley.
Starring Josh Folan, Chris Perry, Natalie Wetta, Keithen Hergott and Eleanor Wilson.
A group of paranormal inspectors who dispel hauntings are sent to explain the happenings of a haunted insane asylum.
Recently I have began to realise that sometimes it’s better to go into a movie having no idea what it’s about. This is what I did with Episode 50. I had no idea of its genre (although I had a hunch it was a horror), and no plot summary to go by. Unfortunately, instead of being a pleasant surprise, Episode 50 was a bit of a let down. Please be warned, there are spoilers in this review, albeit it terribly revealing ones.
The film opens with some definitions of the different types of haunting, e.g. poltergeist, written in white text on a black screen. This is promising, and had me excited about the movie. However, as the definitions disappear, a bizarre twist had me quite disappointed. A TV show begins called The Paranormal Inspectors, about people who are dispelling the chances of a haunting in an old couples house. How? Well, they explain to the couple that the noises they are hearing are rats, and the visions they are seeing are induced by paint fumes. It seems a little farfetched, and seem to be reasons any right thinking person would discover themselves. But whatever.
After the typically cheesy fast-scrolling American credits roll for this TV show, the film actually begins. Sort of. Already from this mock TV show opening, there is some wooden acting and a bitter taste in my mouth. I’m already not looking forward to where this is going. And it gets worse, as the TV show team are properly introduced to us as being the main characters of the movie. There isn’t a likeable guy or gal amongst them. This is a shame, because it becomes a chore having to get to know the group, as they go and meet another incredibly unlikeable character who requests that they go and film Paranormal Inspectors in the most haunted building around - the West Virginia Insane Asylum. Ooo, creepy! The film gets its title from the fact that the show to be filmed is going to be the 50th episode special, which itself seems a bizarre angle to take. Why not call it the same name as the TV show? Or the asylum?
The film then gives us a few talking head segments, with students and scientists and the like all justifying why hauntings are fake. Their reasons should really be plentiful to make it a valid argument, but this section of the film sort of falls flat. It doesn’t really debunk anything, and seems a little try hard in its attempt to set up what is clearly going to be the rest of the films intention of making us feel that ghosts and ghouls are in fact real.
Next, the black screens and white text appears again, and again, and again. It gets very tedious, even if it is attempting to set up an atmosphere as it tells us that episode 50 of Paranormal Inspectors never made it public viewing - until now. So now, the movie is technically a found footage film, a la Cloverfield. I’m a fan of some found footage films, but this didn’t have the grittiness you’d hope for. It seemed too polished, like too much money was spent attempting to create the same sort of creepy atmosphere - and really failing.
We return to the team, who have arrived at the asylum, to discover that their ‘rivals’, a group which are deeply (and annoyingly) religious, are there to prove the stories of the asylum true. Having two extremes could have worked well, what with the P.I’s being sceptical of ghosts existence, but unfortunately this too falls a little flat and creates another group of unlikeable and unrelatable characters. A good horror movie, should on the whole make you feel a bit bad for all these people who are probably going to die horrifically, or on the other end of the scale they are so bad you want them to die as soon as possible. But alas, these characters lack dimension and you’re really left not caring which way it goes.
I will leave the events of what happens when they cross the threshold of the asylum for you to discover if you wish - what I will say, is that in the film’s credit there are some spooky moments, but equally there are some truly silly ones too. The real problem with this film is that it is too busy which is only emphasised by its short run time. With the two groups splitting up to smaller groups, it becomes quite difficult to put up with the quick changes of location and events. There are also several plot holes in this story, and a bizarre attempt at a back story for our lead characters which never really gets enough attention to be explained fully. There’s also some confusion caused by some of the camera work - in a found footage film, there is some expectation that the film should stick to the P.O.V of a handheld camera, and that the camera man should be established as a character. Spanish zombie flick Rec does this particularly well and is a fantastic piece of horror, but Episode 50 is quite frankly to be forgotten. See this movie out of curiosity and for small, cheap thrills - but not if you’re expecting atmosphere, suspense, or really any other staples of an above average horror, then give it a miss.
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