Halloween On Hulu 2016 : “Altergeist”

Posted: October 30, 2016 in movies
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

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Hey! Look what I found on Hulu! Another ultra-low-budget “found footage” horror flick about wannabe paranormal investigators! Let’s give writer/director Tedi Sarafian’s 2014 effort Altergeist a go and see if there’s anything that sets it apart from its legion of competitors, shall we?

Right off the bat the setting here is a winner — the purportedly haunted King’s Ransom Winery in northern California is a reasonably original (and equally reasonably atmospheric) one, that’s for sure, but that’s where any “newness” begins and ends with this film, as we’re introduced in fairly short order to the entire cast of highly derivative characters, all portrayed by obviously amateur actors who struggle to one degree or another : the winery’s owner, Ashen Till (played by David Weidoff) only closes down his operation for one weekend out of the year, and he’s agreed to allow our team of ghost hunters — consisting of pregnant “leader” Theresa (Kristina Anapau), her old man, Dax (Mark Hapka), and crew members Jason (Brendan Fletcher), Sarah (Linsey Godfrey), Mike (Alexis Cruz), and Maya (Sarah Oh) — to have the run of the place while no one else is around so that they can get footage in the can for their still-in-development TV series pilot. Rumor has it that some deep, dark secret infests the place, and a series of bizarre and unrelated (at least on paper) female suicides over the decades would seem to bear that out, but while a gaggle of typically lackluster “weird happenings” begin to plague our ostensible “heroes” rather quickly, it’s a series of dull and uninvolving soap opera-esque internal tensions within the group that seem to present a more clear and present danger to one and all than anything the supernatural plane can conjure up.

And then things get downright confusing.

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I’m not just talking about the story, either, although that surely devolves into a convoluted mess. In more practical terms, though, some of the lighting in a number of scenes is so low that  it’s just plain hard to tell what the hell is even happening, which is a real shame because Sarafian does have a fairly keen eye for shot composition that really shines through at times (such as in the still shown above), but those times get fewer and farther between as events progress, and then, just when the entire enterprise seems to be bottoming out in both technical and artistic terms, along comes — the aliens?

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Yeah, I don’t pretend to get it, either. And I even went back and re-watched a good handful of scenes to see if there were any hints that I missed or clues that I was too clueless to pick up on. Nope. It’s all totally out of left field. Which could work, in theory, I suppose — but doesn’t in this case. It’s all handled too clumsily and jarringly to be anywhere near as effective as Sarafian clearly wants it to be, and a dumb and confusing film ends up descending even further to the point where it’s dumb, confusing, and ultimately inexplicable. It also feels like it’s about to end a good few times before it actually does, and so when the credits do finally roll, it feels like sweet relief more than anything else.

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So, yeah, this is another loser in Hulu’s “horror and suspense” stable, and one you’d do well to steer clear of at all costs. There’s some admirable ambition on display here, but a combination of incompetent execution on a technical level and a poorly-thought-through script torpedo any good intentions its would-be auteur may have had. Beam me the fuck out of King’s Ransom Winery, Scotty — Altergeist is a mess.

Comments
  1. Ryan C. (trashfilmguru) says:

    Reblogged this on Through the Shattered Lens.

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