Haunting Villisca (2006) – By Matt Barry

Based on true events, Haunting Villisca, from Digital Shadow Films, is a paranormal thriller in the tradition of small-town “haunting” stories.

It opens in the small town of Villisca in 1912, where an entire family is murdered in their sleep by a killer with an axe. The film cuts back and forth between the trial in 1912, and the present day, with Prof. David Salt, who is dealing with issues with his wife. After his wife takes her own life, he finds himself ousted from his position at the college after it is revealed he’s involved in an affair with a student. Arriving in Villisca, he immediately finds himself involved in strange happenings, and begins to realize there may be a connection between his wife and the terrible tragedy that took place in Villisca nearly a century earlier.

The film boasts a particularly good music score that is worth noting, strongly evoking the chilling atmosphere. Director James Serpento (who also co-wrote and edited) keeps things moving at a brisk pace, building good moments of fright by using seemingly ordinary image with an unsettling quality, particularly in the sequence taking place at the Villisca Heritage Parade. There are some good special effects too, which are used sparingly and therefore more effective when they do appear. Serpento especially does a great job at evoking the small town atmosphere.

For more information on the DVD, check out the website here.