At first when viewing the title, one thinks of another found footage film, but that thought quickly abandons the mind, as movie takes a truly interesting horror path, touching on the back-story of ghost hunting television shows, and taking the audience into the darkness of a ghost telling story grounded in horror. Andrew P. Jones, who not only took the helm as both director and writer of this creation, but also noting his first horror, in fact most of his previous directorial pursuits came from television documentaries; however he had extensive editing knowledge which pays off in the conveying of this tale.
A simple enough basis of a story is a group of ghost hunters struggling to keep their passion of the craft alive while dealing with the pressures of both their television executive and the competition in their field. The executive, Ms. Simon, Dee Wallace’s talents sharp as ever, showing ruthless combative seriousness with a no nonsense mentality when conveying the intention of their poor ratings, to other ghost hunters, namely referring to the show name ‘Ghost Sightings’ and not ghost something. So many other ghost hunting never show or tell the portion of the business, usually just an over energized leader of the group, with a rational member, rounded out by unimportant body count staff, none of that exists in this intelligent screenplay. Rather, the film follows the groundwork of an actual ghost hunter show, the opening explaining the history, interviews, setting up equipment, finally investigation with serious and logical communication. The team consisted of a talented Jeffrey Johnson (Joel) his charm makes one very intrigued to continue deeper into the film, his wife Kate (Linara Washington), camera-personnel Berger (Charley Koontz) and then their psychic Roger (John Zderko), need a winning show, or faces cancellation. In lies the rub, provided by a man Mr. Gaffney (Bill Lithgow) plagued with horrors, from a prison, a haunted location, their salvation, the biggest, worst location to date, for their personal investigation to save the team and show. The bond and on screen chemistry between Jeffrey and Linara show sincere caring, something that often lacks in horror films, for the fictitious romance, however she enhances her character providing the loving support, even though she grows weary of the industry of ghost hunting. The entire film conveys the documenting of a real investigation, and one realizes again that the movie contains no found footage – thankfully. Meanwhile Knootz provides the comedic relief that becomes a requirement in horror films, one must break the tension with the audience, to ease their nerves to prepare them for a scare or shock in the next scene.
The film takes the time to allow the audience learn about the characters, even the secondary ones, nothing is rushed, excellent pacing, including well thought out camera placement and angles showing that experience and knowledge of filmmaking can truly enhance a project for horror audiences to thoroughly enjoy. Andrew, builds the tension, a bit of mystery with ghostly haunting, yet scares not over powering still work in conveying thick, atmospheric, spooky dense darkness in the corridors, and the whispers echoing in the endless prison cells. In addition, the effectiveness of the prison, a real location, serve as an excellent character, the intensity of the building, echoes multiple fears quickly for all to enjoy. The only downside came from the CGI work of over-used long gated mouth an attacking ghost, as recalled in Ghostbusters (1984) to now commonplace and unsure why it continues, Realm of Souls (2013) used the eye sockets melting, so the options do exist for more intense facial manipulation scenes to have the viewer’s experiences.
There have been many haunting films released over the years, many containing possessions, found footage elements and no surviving, so herein two out of three is not horrendous, and with a return justice in horror films, evil does get the punishment it richly deserves. One must note that this film’s original title, Apparitional, likely changed to avoid giving away too much to the audience which fits better into the popular phrasing “The Haunting of (whatever)” and that also a blessing cellblock 11 instead of the commonly ominous 13. This flick shows that original storytelling exists in the horror genre, providing a few chills, a bit of eerie scenes, through serious actors who understand their roles, the scenes, and leaves one wondering how many ghost hunting shows are faking it versus the true dedicated teams.