11/18/11

Ectovember: House of Bones (2010): Ghost Hunters become the Ghost Hunted

More than a few times I've professed my love for ghost hunting shows here at the Lair. I have my favorites (Most Haunted), ones that make me chuckle (Ghost Adventures), and ones I can't stand (Ghost Lab). In between there's a plethora of other shows of varying degrees of mediocrity. So I've long looked for a horror movie that incorporated ghost hunting in an interesting way. While I've never gotten to see the crown jewel in this particular sub-genre,the 1991 BBC1 mockumentary Ghostwatch, I've sat through Haunting of Winchester Mansion and Death of a Ghost Hunter both of which I felt no compelling reason to write about. (I'm still holding out some hope for Grave Encounters (2011)) Today's ghost hunter flick is the first I've seen to both show the seedy underbelly of the paranormal show and give a satisfying, and often horrific, ride. The strangest thing is that it hails from the home of one of the premiere spiritualist shows, Ghost Hunters. That's right. You're about to be treated to something very scary, a SyFy movie I enjoy. House of Bones is thankfully not a horror/porn, a sequel to the Snoop Dogg flick, or a theme restaurant based on the Emily Deschanel. Instead, it's made for TV fare with a ton of potential, some decent scares, and, dare I say, a whole lot of spirit(s).

Corin Nemec (Mansquito, Parker Lewis Can't Lose) appears as Quentin French, the prissy, small ponytailed host of the paranormal show Sinister Sites. With the ratings beginning to fade, the network is demanding that the host get his hands dirty and actually join the ghost hunting team on an investigation. Meanwhile, in New Orleans (Really nearby Crowley, La. The one exterior city shot could have literally been anywhere.), the team is busy setting up for an investigation in the Wicker House, a home notorious for numerous murders and disappearances over the years. Despite the home's sordid past, lead investigators Tom (Ricky Wayne) and Greg (Marcus Lyle Brown) are non-believers more than willing to set up a shot or create evidence. In addition to the host joining the team, new addition Heather Burton (Charisma Carpenter), a psychic, and production assistant Bub (Kyle Clements) soon find that the house is indeed haunted. In Bub's case, he finds out the hard way. With actual evidence being captured, Tom gleefully disregards the team's safety in order to make exciting television, and soon they all find that the house itself is a presence and it will not let them leave.

Perhaps the most surprising thing about this SyFy original is that they would air it in the first place. The entire premise of the film relies on the conceit that ghost hunting shows are bunk, full of actors scaring themselves, and actively engaged in fakery. With Ghost Hunters still pulling in a sizable viewership, it took a certain amount of balls to air a film that basically says the fans are stupid. The second most surprising thing is that the film is actually pretty good. While House of Bones initially relies on jumpy video cuts to create tension, director Jeffery Scott Lando lets those fade into the background and actually manages to come up with quite a few creepy visuals.Writer Anthony C. Ferrante has clearly watched a ton of the shows and gets his stuff right, and I do have to say his style is improved since the underwhelming Boo (2005). That's not to say that the film is not full of useless expository passages, inane dialog, and broad characterizations. After all, you can take the movie off of SyFy, but you can't take the SyFy out of the movie. What a cast and crew can do is make the best out of a fumbling script, and with House of Bones, they've done just that.

There were actually three things that drew me into watching House of Bones, the ghost hunting angle, the "New Orleans" setting, and Charisma Carpenter. While I am no huge fan of Buffy and Angel, I am quite the fan of Ms. Carpenter. Far and away, she's the best portion of this film, but her psychic character is totally underused. (The character is also roundly ignored. When a psychic spits up blood and tells me a house is possessed by malevolent spirits, well, I can guarantee there would be a Bugg size hole in the door pronto.) Ricky Wayne, who has recently landed roles in Real Steel, the Charlie's Angels tv series, and Burn Notice, impresses as the lead investigator. His character arc is the most dynamic, and Wayne pulls it off nicely. Marcus Lyle Brown is likable enough and the same can be said of Kyle Clements and Collin Galyean, who played the team tech guy, but neither became fleshed out characters. Top billed Corin Nemec is really not in more than 15 minutes of the film, and that is being entirely generous. As a group, the cast rises above the script, but not far, perhaps a Chris Angel street magic rise, but no further.

Looking at the film from a ghost believer's point of view, the characters come to believe that the house contains both intelligent (as in they will respond with some intelligence) and residual spirits (who appear or act without an awareness of our timeline). The most interesting concept is that the house itself is not only possessed, but it had been constructed as a means of storing and amplifying psychic energies. The same has been said of Winchester Mansion (which the aforementioned film borrowed a name, but not an actual setting from) built by Elsa Winchester to both protect herself from ghosts as well as focus their energy for Ouija and other means of communication. Again, someone knew their stuff. Sadly the things that bothered me most in the entire film were when the characters went to the basement, a place that would not exist in below sea level New Orleans, and when the spirit drives a cop car away. The first scene is just a personal pet peeve, but the second was so silly it almost took me entirely out of the film.

No matter what your feeling on ghosts or shows concerning them, I highly recommend no one go into this movie without knowing from whence it came. As far as SyFy films go, this is far and away one of the best I've ever seen. As a regular film, it rates below average which is the rating I'm going to give it. Even so, I had a great time watching it, and while much of that has to do with the cast, I can't underestimate some of the macabre creepiness that House of Bones manages to achieve. With another writer taking a pass over the script, a little bit more money in the budget, and perhaps a couple minor casting changes, House of Bones could have been a solid, quality entry into the supernatural genre. As it stands, House of Bones built something good upon a shaky foundation, and when your network can't even afford a proper amount of letters in their name, that's pretty damn impressive.

Bugg Rating

2 comments:

  1. Just a heads up - Grave Encounters is a soft and stale turd of a film that stays on your screen like a full bedpan under an uncomfortable, incoherent nursing home resident. Starts off engagingly enough - then it Jumps the Shark and Kodos and Kang.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks for the heads up Damocles, but I'm a glutton for punishment, so I'm sure t sit through it anyhow. But I can't say I haven't been warned.

    ReplyDelete

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...