There’s only so much you can do in the middle of BF Wisconsin with a thousand bucks and a hand-held digital cam, but what the hell — in 2013 those limitations didn’t stop writer/director/actor Cordero Roman from figuring he could shoot, and star in, his very own horror flick. And while the fruit of his labor, The Rohl Farms Haunting, is hardly destined to set the cinematic world on fire, it has made it as far as the streaming queue on Amazon Prime, and that’s at least something.
Homemade “found footage” efforts like this are a dime a dozen, of course — we certainly talk about enough of ’em around these parts — but this one at least shows something vaguely resembling the generally-accepted dictionary definition of “ambition” : Roman starts out looking to film a “slice-of-life” documentary about his long-time friend, Luke Rohl (who’s also “playing himself”), a clearly-overwhelmed fellow twenty-something who’s recently found himself the less-than-enthusiastic owner of his very own farm thanks to the untimely deaths of both of his parents; then our gears quickly but predictably shift into rather standard-issue “paranormal” territory when a series of half-assed “inexplicable” incidents (mostly amounting to scratches on the door at odd hours — albeit the same odd hours day in and day out) threaten to send the already-stressed farmer over the brink; then we change direction again when we learn that — nah, that would be telling. Let’s just say that there’s an entirely different, and actually somewhat (though not terribly, it must be said) surprising explanation for everything that’s going on that at least comes reasonably close to rewarding viewers for sticking it out with this admittedly up-and-down effort to the end.
On a purely technical level, Roman at least seems to know what he’s doing : there are no standout shots or anything of the sort, but there’s nothing that makes it in front of the camera that he needs to be embarrassed about, to be sure. Ditto for the acting — while neither of our “stars” are exactly good, it has to be said that they’re not bad, either. They both have a job to do, and manage to get in, get it done, and get out with their dignity more or less intact. That’s far from glowing praise, obviously, but shit — it’s more than you can say for any number of “micro-budget” productions of this nature, isn’t it? Roman’s brother (played by his brother) and girlfriend (played by his sister — let’s not even go there) don’t fare quite as well, but whatever. It’s probably not even fair to expect the entire cast to rise to the level of being “believable” in a smaller-than-small-scale number such as this.
In summation, then, “not too damn bad” is a pretty fair final verdict for The Rohl Farms Haunting. It does what it can do with what it’s got, and while that means, pretty much by default, that it’s going to rise to the level of “okay at best” and not much higher, it at least manages to meet that (fair enough, low) bar and offers a couple twists, one in particular, that will leave most viewers feeling like they certainly didn’t waste their time (84 minutes of it, to be precise) watching it. In a pinch, that’ll do.