Posts Tagged ‘Art Arutyunyan’

In recent years, micro-budget VOD steaming horror releases have become something of my stock-in-trade around these parts —  and yet, in recent months, as I’ve devoted most of my blogging time to getting a good backlog of material up on my Four Color Apocalypse comics review site, I’ve had disturbingly little time to not only write about, but to even watch them. Still, despite very little “wiggle room” in my schedule of late, once in awhile you just gotta scratch the “homemade horror” itch, and to that effect, last night I was browsing through the new additions on Amazon Prime, and settled on a very recent (as in, 2018) release from writer/director Art Arutyunyan entitled Armenian Haunting, purportedly focused on a family curse that dates back to the days of the Armenian genocide at the hands of the Turks in the early 20th century.

This is a crucial, and tragic, bit of history that is often overlooked, chiefly because the Turkish government still does its level best to sweep it under the rug, so it’s good to see a film — particularly an American-made film (hey, don’t let the title fool you) such as this one — shine some light on it, but good intentions don’t necessarily make for a good flick, and I’m sorry to report that’s the case here.

The opening scene is reasonably compelling and well-staged, as we see a man first haunted by voices and then encountering a mysterious figure that causes him to literally drop dead from fright right on the spot, but from there on out things kind of spiral downwards — the dead man turns out to be the cousin of our protagonist, a college student named Maro (played by the obviously unprofessional, but by no means incompetent, Vaneh Assadourian), and is, in fact, the latest in a long line of members of her family who have met their ends under mysterious circumstances, so she does what I guess all people her age do under similar(-ish) circumstances : decides to video-document her investigation into the apparent curse.

Now, this isn’t exactly a “found footage” horror per se, but there are definite “mockumentary” elements to it, and they tend to be somewhat less-than-successfully presented : scenes shot outdoors, for instance, clearly had their sound dubbed in later, and the same is true of the (largely-appropriate) sound effects spliced into the indoor scenes, and some of Mara’s interview subjects — most notably her grandmother (Tamara Grigorian), who has a reasonably compelling story to tell — have an inexplicable habit of not facing the camera directly when they’re being recorded. Some of this is down to the film’s modest ($30,000, according to IMDB) budget, sure, but some of it makes no real sense whatsoever.

The acting’s as uneven as the production values, too : Kyle Patrick Darling does a pretty decent job as gender-fluid supporting character Garo, and Aneela Qureshi cuts a memorable figure as the film’s obligatory psychic, Aida, but beyond them — well, the less said, the better. These people are clearly trying more often than not, but they just don’t have the talent to make their work come across as being believable.

As events play out the genocide looms larger, given that the curse stems back to a perceived betrayal that occurred in its wake, but it’s difficult to remain engaged in the proceedings, even as they accrue real-life import, simply because a series of poorly-realized scenes (especially a couple of the purportedly “scary” ones) are so unintentionally comical that they literally take you out of the flow of events and turn your attention to shortcomings in the production’s execution. Again, some can’t be helped — but too many can. And that really sums up Armenian Haunting in a nutshell — Arutyunyan’s heart seems to be in the right place, but he probably should have waited until he had at least the ability, if not the resources, to tell the story he wanted in an effective manner.