As Above, So Below (2014)

Scarlett is a young scholar who continues her dead father’s search for the philosopher’s stone (a legendary alchemical substance discovered by Nicolas Flamel, which supposedly has the powers to turn metals into gold or silver, and granting eternal life). She travels to Paris, and together with her ex boyfriend George and Benji, the cameraman, they go to the Catacombs of Paris. Scarlett had earlier found the “Rose Key”: an artifact that has some codes which, upon using them to solve a riddle on Flame’s headstone, gives them some coordinates that points to an area inside the Catacombs. But of course, this specific area proves to be off-limits. With the help of a stranger, they get in contact with a guide, Papillon, who will take them to an off-limits entrance. Crawling through a narrow tunnel, they are pushed forward as it collapses, and they end up in an area with a blocked tunnel. Finding no other way to leave, they decide to break through the tunnel…and what they find further inside is more hellish than they could have imagined.

 

As Above, So Below is a found footage horror film from 2014, which was actually the first production ever that secured permission from the French government to film in the catacombs (a place we actually visited some years back, a delightful experience). As part of the promotion for the film, Felix Kjellberg (AKA PewDiePie) traveled through the Paris Catacombs. The film is directed by John Eric Dowdle, who previously directed The Poughkeepsie Tapes, Quarantine, and Devil.

 

The film incorporates several things, including a little bit of Egyptian history, Knights of Templar, mythology, religion, and of course it draws some obvious inspiration from Dante’s Inferno. Trapped inside some really claustrophobic areas, where the characters are pushed further and further into the complexity of Hell itself, makes for a suspenseful viewing. There’s a lot of atmosphere here and scenes that are both creepy an sometimes even outright scary, with madness and paranoia taking over their resolve. The claustrophobic feeling is genuine and really creepy.

 

As Above, So Below is a pretty decent found footage horror film with a little bit of an adventurous side to it, which makes it feel like a “National Treasure meets Blair Witch” kind of thing, with a reminiscence of The Descent and The Tunnel. It blends several pieces of mythology with well-executed symbolism, and of course excellent use of scenery as it was filmed in the real Catacombs of Paris with little use of props. Due to its heavy symbolism and use of mythological aspects it may not cater to everyone, of course, but we found it to be a thrilling little ride.

 

As Above So Below

 

Director: John Erick Dowdle
Writer: John Erick Dowdle, Drew Dowdle
Country & year: France, USA, 2014
Actors: Perdita Weeks, Ben Feldman, Edwin Hodge, François Civil, Marion Lambert, Ali Marhyar, Cosme Castro, Hamid Djavadan, Théo Cholbi, Emy Lévy, Roger Van Hool, Olivia Csiky Trnka, Hellyette Bess
IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt2870612/

 

 

Vanja Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Tunnel (2011)

the tunnel 2011 reviewThe New South Wales State government plans to recycle the huge amounts of trapped water in a network of abandoned train tunnels. However, these plans suddenly come to a halt, and publicly no one is ever told why. Rumors are spreading, like how homeless people using the tunnels end up going missing. This brings a young journalist, Natasha, to start an investigation into what she thinks is some kind of government cover-up. She and her crew decide to enter the tunnels and look for answers, but after being refused entry by a security guard, they do of course find an alternative entrance into the place. While exploring the tunnels, they start hearing strange noises through the audio headphones, and when one of the crew members go missing they eventually realize that they might not be alone in these deep, dark tunnels.

 

The Tunnel is a crowd-funded Australian horror film made in the mockumentary style (faux documentary), directed by Carlo Ledesma and written by Enzo Tedeschi and Julian Harvey. While found footage movies have pretty much become dime-a-dozen these days, it is still a format that can be quite effective. By the time of this movie’s release back in 2011, Australia already had an other gem in their mockumentary-horror repertoire: Lake Mungo from 2008, a movie that’s mostly been obscure and little known but have had some kind of re-discovery as of late. While Lake Mungo is a movie that plays more on loss and grief with some supernatural vibes underneath, The Tunnel hits heavier on the creep-keys with atmospheric scenery and things going wrong in the dark. It does have a fair amount of creep factor and plays a lot on the fear of what might be lurking in the dark, and the creepy setting helps to set the mood. The claustrophobic and dark atmosphere is pretty much what carries the movie, and easily manages to give you a whiff of the heebie jeebies since the darkness implies more than it shows, and leaves a bit to your own imagination.

 

The movie isn’t fast-paced and spends some time before plunging the characters (and viewers) into the tunnels and the horrors that lurk there, and it also spends some time on “interviews” in order in order to maintain the documentary-style. If you have patience for the somewhat slow build-up and can appreciate that the creep-factor is more focused on what you can imagine instead of actually seeing, then you should be able to enjoy this low-budget Australian mockumentary.

 

The Tunnel

 

Director: Carlo Ledesma
Writers: Enzo Tedeschi, Julian Harvey
Country & year: Australia, 2011
Actors: Bel Deliá, Andy Rodoreda, Steve Davis, Luke Arnold, Goran D. Kleut, James Caitlin, Ben Maclaine, Peter McAllum, Rebecca Clay, Shannon Harvey, Arianna Gusi, Russell Jeffrey, Jessica Fallico, Ben James
IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt1735485/

 

 

 

Vanja Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE BACKROOMS – Horror Short

A cameraman helping to shoot an indie film suddenly finds himself wandering a liminal space.

 

The Backrooms a 9 minute found footage short film made by the 16-year old director and VFX artist Kane Parsons which takes the concept of liminal spaces to a whole new level of horror.

 

BACKROOMS - Horror Short

 

Director: Kane Parsons
Country & year: USA, 2022
IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt17291392/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Digging Up the Marrow (2014)

Adam Green starts working on a documentary about monster/creature artwork. Out of the blue, a man suddenly contacts him and claims he has proof of the existence of monsters. This man’s name is William Dekker, and he is a retired detective who is convinced that there’s underground monsters in a place he calls “The Marrow”. Green sees this as an opportunity to refocus his documentary into the story of Dekker and his efforts to expose these so-called underground monsters. They set up cameras in the woods nearby the hole where Dekker claims the monsters sometimes come out from, but Green and his crew are not sure whether this man is just setting up an elaborate hoax, or if he is just batshit crazy…or, maybe, if he’s actually telling the truth.

 

Digging Up the Marrow is a mockumentary-style horror film directed by Adam Green (yes, the same name as the protagonist, he is actually playing himself). The concept behind the movie is inspired by a fan mail sent to him by a guy named Alex Pardee. Later, Green met Pardee at a convention, where he shared his concept story which was about an artist that got commissioned to paint so-called real monsters. While the movie is made in pure mockumentary-style, the filmmakers actually decided to use a famous actor in the role as the crazy monster hunter Dekker, as they didn’t want the movie to come off as an attempted hoax. Thus, Ray Wise (Twin Peaks, 24, Robocop, etc.) was cast for the role. This does, of course, take away from the feeling of being “genuine” (which is usually what mockumentaries aim for), but Wise does a great job with portraying the slightly unbalanced monster hunter.

 

As for the effects used in the film, they’re actually pretty decent. Most of the effects used in the film were practical, based off of Pardee’s designs. The team had a bit of trouble when creating fully working animatronics though, due to Pardee’s designs being a tad bit too surreal…however, Green said he wanted to use designs that were unique, rather than doing something generic which the viewers had already seen many times before. And of course, it’s always fun seeing some dude playing a monster while dressed up in a full rubber costume!

 

So overall, Digging Up the Marrow is an easy watch and enjoyable enough. It is not a fast-paced creature feature flick, which should be obvious with the choice of filming it as a faux documentary, and there are more than a few dull moments. Still, it’s imaginative and compelling enough to entertain.

 

Digging Up the Marrow

 

Director: Adam Green
Country & year: USA, 2014
Actors: Ray Wise, Adam Green, Will Barratt, Josh Ethier, Rileah Vanderbilt, Kane Hodder, Sarah Elbert, Tom Holland, Mick Garris, Alex Pardee, Jimmy McCarthy, Nic Henley, Caitlyn Brisbin, Robert Pendergraft
IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt1991031/

 

 

Vanja Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Prosjekt Z (2021)

Prosjekt Z

We’re in the 1980s somewhere in the Norwegian forests, where the young couple Rebecca and Thomas are on a car trip. They run over a dog, and assume that the owner lives in the old victorian-styled hotel not so far away. Rebecca takes on the task to enter the hotel, which seems to be abandoned at first glance. But a horde of zombies suddenly show up, with the transsexual zombie-hotel owner itself Mor Monsen (Mother Monsen). This is not really happening, by the way, we are at the beginning of a clunky student film called “De Døde Våkner” (The Dead Awakens) and we get a series of behind-the-scenes footage that documents the film shooting, that goes from chaotic to the brink of disaster, and a showcase of how the film industry may not be as glamorous as one might think.

 

We meet the insecure director Julie Lundgreen with a big ego who has her script carved in stone, and is constantly in a protecting mode of “her vision” while the film’s main character, Rebecca, played by Iben Akarlie, is a feminist who tries to persuade the director to skip the scene where she has a threesome with two zombies. Nearly everyone are obviously amateurs, and gets really starstruck when they hear that the veteran Dennis Storhøi, which is one of the biggest movie stars from Norway, will play the role of the transsexual zombie. It does not take long before he starts fighting with the film crew and makes the director cry, and realizes that this is way too amateurish for a serious movie star like him, while he strongly misses the good ole’ days. So what else can go wrong here? Of course, a meteor strikes right next to the filming location, that could have been something straight from Alien, and someone is stupid enough to stick his hand in it. Not a good idea..

 

So what exactly is this? Drama? Comedy? Horror? All of the three, I would say, plus some turbulent relationship drama and how crazy you have to be to make a film with a low budget, little resources and zero experience. Meta-film, as it is called, although it is more in the mockumentary territory with a clear inspiration from The Blair Witch Project. The Japanese One Cut of the Dead also comes to mind even though this is a completely different beast. This is far from a traditional horror film, and in fact the first of its kind that has been made in Norway which puts it in a unique light. The monster scenes are placed in the back seat where the focus is mostly on the chaotic film-making, which may be a disappointment for some. What makes the film work so well is the dysfunctional relationship between the characters, and surprisingly good acting with dialogues and a dynamic that seem both organic and natural, while the line between fiction and reality gets somewhat unclear.

 

Prosjekt Z

 

There are many fun moments here, especially the scenes where the stressed director goes into full Stanley Kubrick mode and wears out the actors with an x-​​number of takes till they act badly just on purpose to taunt her. And Dennis Storhøi as the more eccentric version of himself made me laugh several times. Unlike the role he plays, he seems to really have a blast in Project Z and is one of the main reasons I will re-watch this movie several times. The only thing that does not work as well, is the ending, which seemed a bit anti-climatic.

 

Technically, the film looks really good. It’s limited with shaky-cam, which is a plus, and the aesthetic with the victorian-like surroundings gets a lot of room to shine, thanks to steady cinematography by Oskar Dahlsbakken, the brother of the director, Henrik Martin Dahlsbakken. The older audiences will also appreciate the fact that “The Dead Awakens” segments are filmed in the old-school way at 35mm, while the documentary is shot digitally in various formats. Considering that director Dahlsbakken can make two films a year, completely independently and outside the studio system, one could expect some direct-to-DVD cheapness, but it’s surprisingly competent. And the guy seems to have a good sense of humor and the ability to mix genres without it getting muddy. So yeah, it will be interesting to see what he does next. And as we speak he is already in post-production with his next horror film titled “Possession” which seems to go in a far more serious direction. I’m already excited.

 

Prosjekt Z

 

Director: Henrik Martin Dahlsbakken
Country & year: Norway, 2021
Actors: Eili Harboe, Vebjørn Enger, Iben Akerlie, Dennis Storhøi, Ole Christoffer Ertvaag, Alfred Ekker Strande, Regina Tucker, Jonis Josef, Arthur Berning, Alexandra Gjerpen, Laila Goody, Benjamin Helstad
IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt11444644/

 

Tom Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“3RD EYE” CULT MURDERS – Horror Short

It’s 1975, and an investigator enters a house, filming while he walks through the murder scene. The murders were committed by a cult calling themselves “3rd Eye”.

 

This horror short, made by the “Midnight Video” team, is presented as a “crime scene footage”, and it was actually made during quarantine. Much like several of their other horror shorts (like for example Mikus and Your Date is Here), it’s simple, yet very effective.

 

 

Director: Todd Spence
Country & year: USA, 2020

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bad Ben (2016)

Bad Ben (2016)Tom Riley has just bought a house at a price that is way below market value. With intentions of “flipping” it (a term for buying a house and selling it later for a profit) he goes through the house while filming the entire process with his iPhone. After residing in the house for a short while, however, he notices strange happenings, and decides to set up a bunch of surveillance cameras both inside and outside. At first he’s convinced that people are breaking into the house…but soon, he realizes that he might be dealing with something paranormal.

 

Bad Ben is an odd little horror film. With “found footage” horror movies being all over the place these days, it feels like everyone with a camera and some video-editing software can make their own addition to the genre. While the majority of these movies have a very limited cast and budget, they still manage to (sometimes) turn out as quite decent films. And it kind of feels like Nigel Bach once joined in a discussion about this topic, simply said “Hold my beer”, and went and made a found-footage movie in his own home with himself being the only person involved. Yes, you read that right. This is a 1-man movie. Filmed with an iPhone and the rest consisting of security camera “footage”, with a budget of only $300.

 

Now, an idea like this sounds like the perfect recipe for a disaster of a movie, which could only be appreciated by close friends and family. But to our surprise, we found that it’s actually quite decently made for what it is. And since nearly every single found footage horror movie includes a cast with teens/young people, it was actually a bit refreshing to see a grumpy, middle-aged man who is more pissed off at the goings-on than afraid of it. The movie does have a tone of humor in it, and it manages to keep you captivated throughout the protagonist’s exploration and experiences. It is also kinda fascinating and somewhat inspiring that the entire movie was made as a one-man-show, and part of the entertainment value comes from keeping this in mind.

 

Bad Ben is not a horror movie that will be appreciated by everyone, but for those of us that watch horror movies on a regular basis and has trudged through a ton of various indie horror, it’s easy to see why Nigel Bach’s Bad Ben found a fan base. Bad Ben has turned into a series of a total of 7 movies (so far).

 

Bad Ben

 

Director: Nigel Bach
Country & year: USA , 2016
Actors: Nigel Bach
IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt6269810/

 

 

Vanja Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Haunted Hospital: Heilstätten (2018)

Haunted Hospital: Heilstätten (2018)We are introduced to the YouTube channel Prankstaz.tv, run by two mildly sociopathic douchebags who make prankster-videos where they break into a morgue (among other things) and takes a selfie with one of the cadavers. And all just to see those precious views on YouTube. Reminds me of a certain guy with a similar channel who went to Suicide Forest in Japan in late 2017, to film a fresh corpse hanging from a tree and laugh at it and mock it afterwards. So, here we get a satirical glimpse at how toxic and obnoxious the YouTube prankster-community can be, and how far they are willing to push the shock factor to get the desired attention and views.

 

However, the next project by The Prankstaz is to spend a night in the closed and abandoned Beeliz Heilstätten (or Beeliz Sanatorium), outside of Berlin, which was used during the Nazi era. The sanatorium is supposed to be haunted by a woman, or simply “patient 106”. She killed herself by slitting her wrists in a bathtub after she got pregnant with one of the doctors, and it’s said that she cursed the place. They bring some other YouTubers along with them: a local historian to creep us out with the sanatorium’s dark past, and of course a medium. After they’ve installed static cams in every corner and start to settle in for the night, it doesn’t take long until some spooky shit starts to happen. Of course.

 

The location is also based on the real sanatorium, Beelitz Heilstätten, where the Führer himself was treated for a leg wound in 1918. So yeah, this place goes way back, and was in its time the biggest building of this kind. But the place is most known for the murders by serial killer Wolfgang Schmidt, who allegedly killed five women on this location in the 80’s. A homeless man also hung himself in the sanatorium after it got closed down and abandoned in the early 90’s. A scene from The Pianist (2002) was shot here, and Rammstein used the location for the music video “Mein Herz Brennt”. In Haunted Hospital: Heilstätten they used Heilstätte Grabowsee as the location, another huge abandoned sanatorium outside of Berlin. And yes, Grave Encounters (2011) comes to mind, and they share much of the same qualities, I would say. A huge, dusty, decayed, broken down mental facility with narrow corridors that just seem to go into obscurity, great sound design, thick atmosphere, pretty much the ingredients you need to make a great found footage horror.

 

And then there’s a twist, which you will probably see a mile away, but unfortunately was very poorly executed. But besides of that, Haunted Hospital: Heilstätten is a pretty solid found footage horror that deserves a watch.

 

Haunted Hospital: Heilstätten

 

Director: Michael David Pate
Country & year: Germany, 2018
Actors: Nilam Farooq, Farina Flebbe, Sonja Gerhardt, Maxine Kazis, Lisa-Marie Koroll, Emilio Sakraya, Tim Oliver Schultz, Davis Schulz, Timmi Trinks
IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt7214470/

 

Tom Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hell House LLC (2015)

“Hell House LLC” starts with some news-clips where we learn that an abandoned hotel, which has been transformed into a haunted house tour in a small town outside New York, ended in disaster on 8th October 2009. Several people were killed and injured, and nobody knows what really happened, but the police vaguely blames the outburst on a major malfunction. With the suspicion that the police are holding back some info from the public, it creates conspiracy theories among some local journalists who starts their own investigation. They get in contact with one of Hell House’s crew members, Sarah, who gives them all the raw footage that documents the whole process which spans from August 23rd to October 8th. When she is asked why she hasn’t turned this over to the police, she simply says “you’ll see”. Alright, so let’s take a look.

 

We get introduced to these four crew members who just arrives at Hotel Abaddon and starts to explore its environments and settles in, and decides to stay for the night. The days go by, and they’re installing the electricity, making the effects and props ready, and everything seems to go as planned, until weird shit starts to happen. Doors are opening and closing by themselves, and from one of the static cams we see a glimpse of an obscure person walking around wearing something that looks like a grim reaper-cape. Boo. When they start hiring local actors to the attraction, one of them reveals that the hotel has a dark past and the rumors are saying that the previous owner hanged himself in the hotel’s dining room. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, the crew hears more unsettling stories based in the hotel’s past, and even satanic rituals are mentioned. And just to top that, the hotel is named after a demon from The Book of Revelation known as The Angel of Death. The name Abaddon, which also means ruin, death, desolation, and destruction. Yay. Nothing bad could ever happen here, so just enjoy your stay, and if you survive, please give us a positive review at Yelp…

 

Haunted house attractions are clearly a huge business in USA, where 35 million people around the states are visiting them in October each year to get a great scare (hey, that rhymed). And of course, this concept also makes great set-up for a horror-movie or two. Besides of this we have “The Houses that October Built” which is a more like a half-documentary done in Borat-style where they travel from different states to explore and get a unique insight to the community. Even though Hell House LLC was actually shot in a real haunted house attraction called Haunting at the Waldorf Hotel, it was only used as location with the fictitious title Abaddon Hotel.

 

It’s not uncommon to put on a found footage horror and expect the worst. How many films like this haven’t been spewed out like cheap burgers to be either total lackluster or forgotten trash, in the hopes of becoming the next Blair Witch or Paranormal Activity? But sometimes, if you really dig in the found footage-jungle, there’s some gold to find. And what a pleasant surprise Hell House LLC was. Writer and director Stephen Cognetti does a pretty steady job combining the documentary and found footage-style, while the horror itself relies mostly on the psychological and the atmosphere. The hotel’s dark backstory and lore are also intriguing and is spicing up the mood, not to mention the creepy decorations hanging around that adds to the atmosphere. This is overall a very well made horror flick with great acting, and a tension that builds up to the finale.”Hell House LLC” is  probably on the same level as “Grave Encounters” (2011), another found footage film that really knew how to use the format.

 

The Sequel “Hell House LLC II: The Abaddon Hotel” was released on the streaming service shudder.com. It’s also available from other sources, but since we live in Norway we haven’t actually found any place where we can watch it (yet) as Shudder is not available here, and the other sources are region locked and mostly only available in USA or UK. Bummer. As we currently speak, the third installment is being filmed, called “Hell House LLC III: Lake of Fire”. So when comes the Hell House Trilogy Box-Set? We just have to wait and see, I guess…we currently own “Hell House LLC” on dvd, and so far it looks like the only other option for us to check out the other movies is to wait (and hope for) a dvd release when the third film is finished.

 

Suspiria 2018

 

Director: Stephen Cognetti
Country & year: USA, 2015
Actors: Gore Abrams, Alice Bahlke, Danny Bellini, Theodore Bouloukos, Natalie Gee, Jared Hacker, Phil Hess, Ryan Jennifer Jones, Lauren A. Kennedy, Jeb Kreager, Miranda Robbins, Adam Schneider, Kristin Michelle Taylor
IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt4267026/

 

Tom Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grave Encounters (2011)

Grave Encounters (2011)Grave Encounters is a “found footage” horror movie about a reality TV series where three paranormal investigators visists historic haunted landmarks in the United States, like we’ve seen in “Ghost Hunters”, “Ghost Adventures” and numerous more of these shows that’s exploded in the recent ten years. But “Grave Encounters” was ahead of its time, according to what a producer tells us in the introduction before the movie starts. The film revolves around the sixth episode of “Grave Encounters” where the entire crew were to inspect an abondened haunted asylum where they disappeared and were never seen again. The only thing that was found was the 70-hour raw footage trimmed down to the last episode. And the producer that introduces us to the episode also tells us that what we’re about to watch is real, has not been tampered with, and just been edited strictly to cut down the time.

 

The movie also does not hesitate for a second to throw in some obvious satire on “Ghost Adventures”, which has become one of the most famous series in the genre. Grave Encounter’s host and producer Lance Preston (Sean Rogerson) can easily be seen as a parody of Zak Bagans with the same style of clothing, hairstyle and manic behavior. The crew also brings along a psychic, a dude that looks like a mix of Mick Jagger and Iggy Pop who must turn on his acting skills between the takes. The series has so far been a pure hoax with its five episodes, but after they get locked inside the mental hospital while camera gets rolling and shit starts to happen for real, they show their true colors and aren’t as tough as they seemed to be. Well, exept the host, Lance, who pushes the crew to keep the show going.

 

What makes Grave Encounters one of the much better found footage films is the realism, great acting, and steady narrative. They go from being characters in a fake series where everything is scripted, to obviously distressed and scared people when things begin to actually happen. It’s that “what-if” scenario that makes Grave Encounters stand out from the found footage-jungle out there. What if all of those paranormal investigators actually got a real up-close encounter with a ghost? Would they run away, or would they actually stay and get more out of it? Well, in this case we know the answer, but it’s a funny thing to think of when you see one of these shows in disbelief. Also filmed in a hospital where the narrow, dark corridors give a cool, isolating atmosphere, and overall a great tension that builds as a locomotive till the end.

 

Grave Encounters

 

Director: The Vicious Brothers
Country & year: Canada, 2011
Actors: Sean Rogerson, Ashleigh Gryzko, Merwin Mondesir, Juan Riedinger, Shawn Macdonald, Mackenzie Gray
IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt1703199/

 

Tom Ghoul