Tuesday, 14 October 2008

HALLOWEEN HORRORS: THE ST. FRANCISVILLE EXPERIMENT



In THE ST. FRANCISVILLE EXPERIMENT, a quartet of teens must spend the night in a haunted house, armed with video cameras and a collective IQ lower than your average super model's chest measurement. Right from the start, this ill-advised project Blairs to go where other, worthier films have previously trodden: the result is a mixed bag of tricks where participants on both sides of the camera emerge with little credit; at least, for the majority of the 78 minute duration.St. Francisville apes its illustrious predecessor by taking a mock doc approach, where historians and paranormal experts start proceedings by providing background information which, to be fair, succeeds in raising expectations. We learn of a house on Royle Street Louisiana, where the cruel mistress of the property kept one of her servants chained to the kitchen wall. When the servant deliberately set fire to the house, her employer took flight, leaving a subsequent investigation to discover an attic full of tortured slaves, including: a 12 year old boy - still alive - with half his face peeled off, and a man whose castration appeared to be part of a hideous sex change operation. There's enough here to match that memorable list of atrocities from SESSION 9, but this hugely perverse atmosphere soon evaporates when our quartet of ghost busters unpack their cameras and thermal scanners. Tim Thompson (film student), Madison Charap (psychic), Paul Cason (team leader) and Ryan Larson (history student) make up the gang of four who arrive in the house to be greeted by a falling chandelier that almost reduces their number. This staggeringly familiar ruse sets the tone for a dull 60 minutes containing a number of misfired attempts to spook the viewers, make them jump and, if all else fails, beg them to empathise with those poor souls inside the house. So, we get a cat jumping out from a wardrobe; overly-theatrical complaints about being touched by unseen hands; a seance which fails to inspire any feelings of dread or forboding and if you're looking for a gross-out scene, I can only offer you a roach sandwich. All of this arrant nonsense is punctuated by group in-fighting (always a pleasure) and any number of spurious claims, including Charap's declaration that they're dealing with a mentally unstable ghost! Apart from one halfway decent scene ( a chair is seen flying across the attic), there's precious little to keep the eyelids from drooping: that is until our friends decide to split up, with each being assigned a room to 'cleanse'. Here, the film really does begin to catch fire and if you can forgive Larson's ELM ST inspired encounter with a four-poster, you may temporarily forget the aforementioned opening hour and buy in to a dramatic sequence that is guaranteed to get your nerves jangling. Even then, the director seems determined to throw a spanner in the works, switching from a potentially sadistic scenario (think SESSION 9 again) to a speedy and unhindered evacuation that would make any health and safety exec postively blush with pride.High Fliers' DVD release is a bare bones, featureless affair, with picture quality ranging from pin-sharp during bright, exterior shots, to a more appropriately grainy look where conveniently placed cameras compete with hand-held shots to either enhance or stifle any sudden bursts of action.While this production comes over as a rush job, with emphasis placed on getting it down rather than getting it right, those fleeting moments of terror label it as worthy of investigation by horror buffs who have to see everything.

3 comments:

  1. Yikes. Sounds like a pretty dull and boring movie most of the time. I've seen so many movies recently that are still trying to do the Blair Witch Project thing that I'm going crazy. lol Great write-up. Don't know if I should check this one out or avoid it. :-)

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  2. I'd say check it out, Keith. Has its moments.

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