Let Me Tell You A “Bayou Ghost Story” —

Posted: April 29, 2017 in movies
Tags: , , , , , , ,

As far as horror movie locales go, they don’t come much more haunted than New Orleans, so the fact that the city (or, at the very least, its surrounding environs) hasn’t featured more prominently in zero-budget, direct-to-streaming indie horror efforts is somewhat surprising, when you think about it. Fear not, though, for here in the (still somewhat) early days of 2017, a cash-strapped would-be auteur named Armand Petri is out to fill that void with his recently-added-to-Amazon-Prime-and-Vimeo number, Bayou Ghost Story, which latches onto the suddenly-surging “real”movie/hand-held “mockumentary” mix format in order to tell a — well, shit, the title gives it away, doesn’t it?

A quick word of warning before we go any further : if self-appointed “paranormal investigators” reflexively work your nerves, this is a flick best avoided because it’s positively crawling with them. We’ve got grad student (at Miskatonic University, no less!)/documentarian Hassan (played by Petri himself) as our de facto emcee; nominal protagonist Byron Cane (portrayed by nominal “star” Andrew Panzarella); internet “sleuth”/dude goading Cane on long-distance, Thomas (Jared Fleming) — these amateur ghost-hunters are positively ubiquitous to the point where you could be forgiven for thinking that no one in the “Petri-verse” does anything else for a living (although a couple of real estate agents and a handyman feature at least somewhat prominently, as well).

And speaking of ubiquitous, Petri never passes up a chance to have one of his male actors appear shirtless. Seriously, even dudes who have just a couple minutes’ worth of screen time in this 70-minute production spend most of that time sans upper-body coverings. So, hey, at least our guy Armand probably enjoyed his time on set, and let’s hope that his actors did, too — although the inconsistency of their performances (some, particularly one Chris Fontenot Jr., who plays a character named Sam, approach what we might vaguely describe as “competence,” while others come nowhere close) really don’t offer much by way of evidence one way or another, especially when one considers that most were recruited from local NOLA-area community theater-type groups. Sure, a few of these individuals may as well stick out their little hobby for awhile and see where it takes them, just ‘cuz, hey, what the hell, but most — well, Popeye’s and Hardee’s are usually hiring, last I checked.

Anyway, the plot, such as it is, proceeds thusly : basically Petri, in his capacities as both screenwriter and director, seems intent on pulling off the sort of “switcheroo” we’ve seen who-knows-how-many time already in that he spends the first half(-ish) of the flick trying to convince us that what we’ve got here is a haunted house story, then he takes a bizarre (but mercifully short) side-step into the little-used (for good reason) haunted tree super-subgenre, and then mercifully reveals that to be a red herring (or maybe that should be a red oak?) as well, since what we’ve really got going — indeed, what we’ve had going all along — is a story about an old family curse.

It sounds confusing put that way, I’m sure, but it’s actually just confused, because in truth it all plays out in fairly straight-forward fashion — it’s just that there’s not a surprise, much less a scare, to be had as we watch Petri go from A to Z by means of an unnecessarily convoluted, but at least easy to follow, series of largely mundane events. There are a fair number of well-executed, even semi-breathtaking, shots of Lake Ponchartrain-area natural scenery to recapture your interest at points where it threatens to wane, but watching a guy who should be pursuing a career in nature documentaries try to make a horror film, well — let’s just call it a unique experience, while keeping in mind that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s also a good one.

For some reason, though, I feel like I’m being unnecessarily hard on Bayou Ghost Story. It would be a definite reach to say that I liked this film, but watching it was nothing like the excruciating experience some of these no-budgeters can be. It was entirely predictable and entirely uninspired (as well as uninspiring), but it has its moments, such as they are, and the admittedly marginal talent, both in front of the camera and behind it, seems to be giving it their best effort, even if their “best” isn’t especially good. Tell you what, I’ll put it this way : I don’t regret the small investment of time that watching, and subsequently writing about, this flick “cost” me, but I really can’t in good conscience recommend that others do the same.

  1. Ryan C. (trashfilmguru) says:

    Reblogged this on Through the Shattered Lens.

  2. bigjohnson says:

    I’m a gay man. I don’t usually like this term, but, this movie was “so gay” from the first 5 minutes. Pumped actors, not really everyday looking people. Was the first thought that came to mind.

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