Monday, May 18, 2015

American Poltergeist Review

Ever since Paranormal Activity came out, ghosts have been giving zombies a run for their money in the micro budget indie/direct to video market. I guess the cheapest thing to put in front of a camera is either an actor with some faint eye makeup and blood around their mouth, or an invisible ghost. Just as with their zombie brethren, some of these haunted house flicks have been ok and some have been just plain bad. Enter American Poltergeist, another small hopeful looking to make itself heard amongst the masses.

The movie centers around a group of paranormal investigators who are just getting their start in the ghost hunting business. So far, they've had no luck in capturing any evidence, and their optimism is dwindling. When a night spent in one of the reputable haunted locations in their area turns up nothing yet again, it causes one member of the group to start verbally abusing the alleged spirit inhabiting the building. While at first, even this tactic appears to bear no result, it's not long before strange things begin to happen to his wife at their house. It looks like not only did he anger the spirit, but it followed him home.

American Poltergeist is as micro budget as micro budget movies get. I get the feeling to truly get anything out of this one you either need to have been involved in the making of it, or be friends with someone who was. At one point, when the ghost attacks, he's supposed to be choking the wife against the wall, and I swear the shadow "effect" was literally someone standing off camera in front of a large light, making a choking motion with his arms so it would look like some sort of shadow figure had it's hands around her neck. The acting is not a whole lot better either. Performances basically range from " I have no idea what I'm doing" to worse. I'd be surprised to see any of the actors and actresses in this movie in anything else ever again.

Still, there were some fairly cool points. When there actually were practical effects, they were decent. There's a good burn makeup toward the end, as well as a little girl apparition with her eyes missing and lips sewn shut, and they both looked good. The other thing I can praise American Poltergeist for that I can't a lot of others is that it doesn't overstay it's welcome. At just over an hour, at least there's not a ton of down time and useless dialog between the uninteresting characters. So there's some good, the problem is the good was just few and far between, and was heavily outweighed by the bad.

It's hard to recommend American Poltergeist, even though I think it's heart is in the right place. As with a lot of indie efforts, I feel like budget constraint was the main issue. That and it didn't do a whole lot to help itself stand out in a grossly saturated sub genre. With ghost hunting being so prevalent these days, there could have been a really cool movie here. Alas, it wasn't meant to be. If you're a die hard fan of these low budget haunt affairs (those people exist, right?), maybe give this one a look, but I can't imagine anyone being anything but disappointed with it.

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