I wrote this early on in my career of reviewing horror films, hence the style and format are vastly different from my current work and heavily improved upon the development of my writing and process. This review now contains some minor updates.
Director and writer Tanzeal Rahim brings a new and powerful supernatural story and film concerning one man named Phillip Muirhouse and his venture into the world of the paranormal and visiting one of the most wretched morally corrupted homes in all of Australia if not the world, the homestead known as The Monte Cristo. Phillip, began his trip with the creation of a documentary in conjunction with his promotional tour for his novel The Dead Country, and sadly he broke a cardinal rule in ghost investigation, never, ever be alone, the results can be dire. This feature combined the found-footage with a ghost telling narrative, completed with video documentation from stationary cameras and a held camera, which leads to Muirhouse’s arrest after a sudden discovery of him in a blood-soaked daze, and that is where the film starts for the audience. Rahim’s flick originally had his film released on BrinkVision in 2013, who had sent the film to me, and then in 2017 POV Horror released it worldwide, and onto many VOD markets, such as Amazon Prime.
Although, this is the first feature from Tanzeal, nothing takes away from a solid production, the first half of the film, presents itself as an education tour, of real ghost hunting equipment, and extends that to a real website entitled Ghost Stop, and the definition of EVP (Electronic Voice Phenomena). These lessons seem to drag on for a bit too long, however, the information later finds itself helpful and expressing visual evidence, therefore bringing the audience into a freakish situation with easy and intelligent design. At a scant 75-minute, the film packs a punch, with a false sense of security and inviting devilish charms, as if the house is in the web, the unseen force is the spider, Phillip and the audience trapped and tangled into it and surrounded by darkness, all assisted due to low level camera lights.
Iain P.F. McDonald portrays the character Phillip, and holds the audience’s attention magnificently well, as he maintains the presence of the screen for ninety percent of the time, and only shares in minuscule manner with other cast members, however The Monte Cristo not wanting a second billing, commandeers the screen during the second half of the film. The house, an 1883 Victorian era architectural design surrounding the house with a full wrap around balcony complete with wrought iron railings, and presents a haunting sinister feel, as it sits in the dead center of the vast grounds. The history of the house contributes more information to the audience, a place where death exists from an unwed pregnant maid, a young child and even a stable boy’s fiery demise. Phillip does a walk-through placing cameras to document activity, all while breaking the first rule in ghost hunting, being alone, and for some unknown reason, he decides to stay in the house to create the promo video, a sense of false bravado. Iain, gives a convincing portrayal of a scared man, with shaking and trembling in the voice, heavy and panic breathing, conveying confusing rational of his mind and what he witnesses, truly talented acting.
As from separating fact from fiction, The Monte Cristo is a very real location found in Australia and is truly considered one of the most haunted places in the world, having paranormal investigations from Ghost Hunters International on January 14, 2010 and previously from Scream Test 2000. Both reported among other newsworthy accounts of ghostly figures, phantom sounds of stomping and cries, lights flickering on and off while fluctuations in temperatures, and movement of furniture occurred.
As for cheap thrills and gags, some exists, but excludes any references or suggestions to sexual situations or gore, but be forewarned, the tensions ratchet up every time the lights go out, and the terror screams silently forward, for the uninformed horror viewer. A reference to the legendary film Poltergeist (1982) comes in the form of a manipulation of furniture. Some found the images at the cemetery scene to exude fakery yet never clearly stated that Phillip accepted the evidence, and the director, later explained in the commentary that accompanies the DVD, that filming at Junee cemetery at night adds its own levels of eeriness. Muirhouse’s production and release came after the release of Paranormal Activity (P.A.) and some suggest the film’s storyline copies from it; however, that’s an incorrect assumption, as P.A. takes over a course of time making less believability while Tanzeal affirms that his takes place in a short period of time and makes the audience tenser and more unedged. In addition, the film extends the terror outside surrounding Phillip in vast darkness and his visits to outlying buildings, ensuring no escape from the ghosts. Needless to say, this film brings shivers to audiences who normally don’t watch horror and give them treats after the credits.
This review originally posted on Rogue Cinema’s site in September 2014 with 1,479 views.
IMDb Rating: 4.3/10
Baron’s Rating: 4/10