Richwood Manor is a house with a history that spans well over two centuries. And if said history were committed to the pages of a book, it would tell the numerous brief but horrific tales of its former residents. Two paranormal investigators have been tasked with establishing the root cause of the unfortunate events that have long plagued the house and its residents.
One investigator, Jack Donavan, is a skeptic whose method of investigation leans more towards disproving the veracity of a haunting through the use of scientific means and equipment. The other investigator, Jonathan Blazer, is a psychic whose “gift” provides him with a glimpse into the spirit realm which aids him in his endeavors. Neither man places much stock in the other’s investigative technique. What’s more, is that they would both prefer to work alone. However, if they wish to earn the rather generous fee of $50,000 to undertake the investigation, while also being locked up inside the house for three nights, they must come to term with each others differences and idiosyncrasies.
Since three days is the longest amount of time that any of the house’s past occupants survived during their stay in the house, this pair would be well served to find the answers they seek as quickly as humanly possible. Especially if they don’t wish to fall victim to the evil that may befall them from the ghosts of the past.
The premise of science versus spiritualism in relation to paranormal investigation is nothing new. In fact it’s similar in that respect to a plot element of Richard Matheson’s novel, Hell House, which was adapted into the 1973 film, The Legend of Hell House. In both films each side has a general disdain for the others method of investigation, but that’s where the similarities end. To be honest I found this film to be rather dull. There were no legitimate scares and many well worn genre cliches were employed to no avail. The back and forth between the two leads is rather monotonous, and seemed more like a pissing contest between two pretentious paranormal investigators. I could actually envision an exchange where they would childishly argue, “my method is better than yours…uhn-uh, mine is better than YOURS”.
What bothered me from the beginning of the film is that these two supposed “expert” paranormal investigators had no prior knowledge of this allegedly infamous house. Furthermore, neither of them did any research into the history of the house they are being asked to investigate. They each receive a card requesting their services, and they blindly show up as if they’re picking up a free futon off of Craigslist. Jack the skeptic goes about his investigating in an unfocused manner, rather than mapping some sort of out a plan. He basically comes across like a ghost hunting cowboy, with his big ol’ belt of contraptions. And Johnathan the psychic has one quick bout with his Ouija board(which he incidentally mispronounces as wee-jee) and then relegates himself to studying a file about the history of the house. As a psychic, shouldn’t he be able to use telepathy, clairvoyance or some other gift of perception to garner information or messages from the spirit realm?
Across the board the acting was somewhat weak and disingenuous. If The actors and actresses can’t effectively communicate a sense of fear on the screen, it won’t instill me with any sense of fear or dread as I safely nestled on my couch. The leads seemed less like experts in their respected fields and more like a couple of petulant schoolboys unwillingly partnered together to work on a school project. Michael Koltes’ portrayal of Jack, seemed more suited for a soap opera, while Paul Flannery’s turn as Jonathan seemed a bit more stage-worthy. Koltes did have one truly emotional moment in the latter half of the film that was delivered effectively and with appropriate subtlety and integrity. Te film would have benefited from the inclusion of a least on more character, even if only to have someone to act as a buffer.
When it comes to the visual aspect of the film, I found the setting of Ardgour House in Scotland to be a great choice. Old secluded manor homes, tucked away on the British countryside are always a top drawer choice for supernatural tales. I have to admit that I was quite impressed with the cinematography. The camera movement, the framing and the shot composition were nicely done. And while it was also well edited, it really doesn’t do anything to save the story.
The effects in the film, while serviceable, were a little underwhelming. The effect I was really most impressed with was a practical gore effect during a stabbing death early in the film.
I would like to make mention of Niall Mathewson’s musical score . It was sufficiently dark and gloomy and at times somber and emotional. Mathewson has shown he has the talent and skill to provide a proper musical backdrop for films in the horror genre.
Judging buy the fact that David Ryan Keith worked on this film as producer, director, writer, cinematographer and editor, this was obviously a passion project for him. Whether passion overshagowed vision or creativity on this film isn’t for me to say. What I will say is that I am a huge fan of supernatural (or perhaps preternatural) horror films and this one sadly did not meet my expectations. 4½ / 10
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