Posts Tagged ‘Heli Vaher’

Hard is it may be to believe in this day and age, there once was a time when the tag-line “Based On A True Story” was used to sell a film. It was a simpler and more naive era, I suppose — but as the years progressed, most audiences wised up to the fact that even these purportedly “true” stories were heavily fictionalized, if not outright fabrications, and so movie-makers started giving themselves a little bit of breathing room (not to mention legal protection) by claiming that their productions were merely “inspired by true stories” or, to push the degrees of separation out a bit even further, “inspired by true events.” These days, though, who are we kidding? Even these tepid labels impress precisely no one — but apparently Connecticut-based producer/director/actor BuAli Shah didn’t get the message, because he was still trying to gin up interest in his 2014 straight-to-streaming number, They Exist, by claiming that it was — you guessed it — “inspired by true stories.”

And so it probably is — if we take the term “stories” literally, as in, stories that people tell. Which are often, of course, complete bullshit.

And speaking of complete bullshit — that’s basically what They Exist amounts to. Shah stars as A.L., a (here’s a stretch) amateur filmmaker who, at the behest of a friend/rival, decides to undertake a documentary project chronicling people’s “real-life” ghost stories (or, if you prefer, “paranormal experiences”), but ends up in over his head — and even charged with murder — when one of his subjects, a young woman named Stacy (played by Heli Vaher) turns out to be haunted/possessed herself. Furthermore, her secret dovetails with one from her chronicler’s own past, and so maybe it’s not exactly a coincidence that the two of them have found themselves bound together by, ya know, ancient forces of evil and all that. If only the two of them were bound together by something more practical, like attending the same acting class —

Which isn’t to say that all the acting in this flick is lousy : supporting characters Joe (John Stagmaier) and Karen (Catalina Ceballos) at least come off as nominally interesting, but they probably should have been cast in the lead roles, to be brutally honest. Other parts are filled by members of the production team (screenwriter Ibne Naqvi plays a character named Maddy) and their siblings (Naqvi’s brother Zar turns up as a guy named Sam) or friends, which is hardly unexpected in a film with a budget this low, but it is helpful if they’re competent — and most of these folks simply aren’t.

That being said, at least a fair amount of the effects work on display here is. Stacy’s transformation in particular is well-executed, and some of the more minor make-up and practical FX really do look pretty good, as does most of the cinematography, which is often quite moody and effective. So at least the film looks good, and I’d even go so far as to say that Shah might have a real future behind the camera. He should just forget about getting back in front of it for the foreseeable future.

It wouldn’t be entirely fair, then, to say that They Exist is a completely lost cause — the story is certainly lame and predictable, and the leads struggle with their roles, but there’s some ability on display on the technical side. It’s nowhere near enough to recommend the film, that’s for sure, but who knows? Shah has made some noise on the movie’s official facebook page about a potential sequel (to be filmed in Pakistan, go figure) and maybe — just maybe — that could prove to be worth checking out, if and when it ever actually comes to pass.