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Unsurprisingly, the cunningly titled “The Paranormal Incident” is yet another low budget found footage affair, in this case following a bunch of unfortunate lame-brains as they wander around the usual abandoned lunatic asylum. The film marks the writing and directorial debut of Matthew Bolton, who previously worked on a variety of schlock rip-offs such as “2012 Doomsday” and “I am Omega” – though even these delightful films aren’t quite dreadful enough to prepare the viewer for the mind-raping catastrophe on offer here. For the terminally curious, or those with a perverse desire to surgically scrape the bottom of the barrel, the film lands shortly on region 2 DVD via Arrow Films.
The asylum in question is the apparently infamous (though oddly casually unguarded) Odenbrook Sanitarium, where a mass suicide took place some sixty years back. In the present day, a gang of 6 monstrous college students head inside with their cameras, hoping capture evidence of the paranormal. Needless to say, the unfortunate suckers are soon beset by all manner of less than threatening (or supernatural) occurrences, with all but one meeting their ends and the film revolving around the lone survivor going through the footage with an interviewer in a bid to clear his name of the killings.
Where to start? Even for those still not sick of the endless found footage films plaguing the horror genre, “The Paranormal Incident” doesn’t work within the limitations of the form. First off, the whole interview structure strips the film of any tension it might have had, revealing from the start who lives and dies, not to mention providing the viewer with the dullest of protagonists. Worse still, Bolton does a very clumsy job of stitching together the interview and students’ footage, leaping between the two with no thought for flow or pacing.
It doesn’t help that the footage itself, supposedly compiled from the students’ equipment and the building’s still functional CCTV, is shabby and supremely lame, the camerawork being not so much shaky as epileptic. Further detracting from the film and making a nonsense of its already flimsy premise is the way in which the footage has been edited together prior to being shown to the survivor – amusingly, whoever took on this unenviable task also took the liberty of adding a particularly grating soundtrack, handily telegraphing every attempted scare.
Not that there are many scares to speak of, Bolton being content to try and terrify through such unspeakable horrors as lights being switched on and off and doors being slammed. Almost nothing else of note happens during the entire too, too long running time of an hour and twenty minutes, the film featuring no ghosts, special effects, or indeed anything of interest. This also means that the viewer has to put up with some of the most hideously annoying and badly acted characters in recent memory all the way through to the final few scenes, as the film leads up to a ludicrous final twist that fails even to raise the kind of unintentional laughs which might have pushed things into camp trash enjoyment.
Although it’s tempting to say that anyone who rents or buys a DVD with a title like “The Paranormal Incident” has it coming, it’s hard to convey just how awful and nail-pulling a film it really is. Very few films truly have nothing to offer, though Bolton achieves that and more.
Matthew Bolton (director) / Chris W. Freeman, Matthew Bolton (screenplay)
CAST: Amanda Barton … Rebecca
Keith Compton … Agent Freeman
Thomas Downey … Agent Watts
Brett Edwards … Brennan
Oliver Rayon … John
Derrick Scott … Daniel
Ashley Seivwright … Kayden