Thursday, January 30, 2014

In short: The Paranormal Diaries: Clophill (2013)

One of these inevitable teams of paranormal investigators is shooting a documentary at the ruins of St. Mary's Church in Clophill. One has to say they're a little more organized than usual in this sort of film, so there's even a couple of security people to keep away unwanted jokers, and they go into the whole affair with a little (though only a little) bit more of a plan of what they are actually trying to achieve. Of course, when it comes to making contact with something horrible, success isn't always what it's made out to be.

By now, even my Grandma knows all about the ways of POV horror, so let's just talk a little about the handful of things Clophill does slightly differently than most of its peers. It's not much, but it is something. First and foremost, Michael Bartlett's and Kevin Gates's film - both of whom are playing themselves in the movie - does try its best to actually look and feel like a cheaply down ghost hunting documentary, with all the scenes of people wandering around and reacting to noises only they can hear that implies, and - unfortunately - the degree of boredom these shows and films tend to contain. On one hand, I appreciate that the directors let the rather uninteresting parts of the film go on as long as they do, for the actual supernatural events do feel more authentic when packaged in mild boredom. On the other hand, boredom is boredom.

While I like how the film integrates its own horrors with the actual stories about the real church, these stories are very run-of-the-mill rural legends about light Satanism and spookery, and don't really make for an interesting mythology, or suggestion of a mythology. As far as cult activity and ghosts/demons go, it's all rather quotidian stuff, particularly in a film that starts with a Lovecraft quote ("The process of delving into the black abyss is to me the keenest form of fascination.").

Still, once the boring parts were over (and yes, I do count fake bird heads and earthworms - hello, Lucio Fulci! - among the boring parts), and in part because the boring parts were boring, the film did manage to creep me out a bit in its final reel (yeah, I know, there are no reels in that sense anymore in the digital filmmaking age, but so what), with two very simple yet effective shocks, as well as an ending that manages to suggest doom without needing to go all out and let the protagonists disappear forever, as would have been traditional in POV horror. For me, that certainly makes The Paranormal Diaries: Clophill worth watching at least once, though probably not a film anyone would feel the need to return to very often.

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