Thursday, January 12, 2017

Review: American Poltergeist

Let me go ahead and get this out of the way.  I believe that ghosts are real.  I'm of the belief that there are people who died that don't know they are dead and, therefore, cannot be sent to Heaven or Hell (yes, I believe in that too), Poltergeists, on the other hand, I believe are malevolent spirits that are neither living nor dead and, if provoked, will cause disturbances.  American Poltergeist (originally titled Provoked), is an indie horror film from writer/director Jordan Pacheco.  Jordan happened to be a part of the makeup department involved in Murder University, another film I enjoyed that I actually reviewed on the Krueger Nation podcast.

Having more in common with Paranormal Activity than Poltergeist, the film centers on Matt (Christopher P. O'Reilly), a paranormal investigator and his live-in girlfriend Jamie (Nicole Lasala).  Matt really wants to experience a paranormal event, but case after case comes up empty.  He and his team are called on to help Liz Johanson, a single mom and her two children, who've experienced genuine occurrences in their home.  Including physical harm being brought upon Liz's teenager daughter, Sarah.  Feeling excited about a case for the first time in a while, Matt becomes angry when the spirit in question isn't willing to communicate.  His team decides to scrap the investigation for the night when Matt, in a fit of rage, begins to provoke the ghost dwelling in the house.  He taunts the spirit, demanding it reveal itself, even going so far as to say "you wouldn't do this in my house".

Naturally, the poltergeist does follow Matt home and begins to torment Jamie.  Matt of all people doesn't believe her claims, chalking it up to paranoia from the stories he has shared with her about what his clients have alleged.  By the time Matt catches on that something is up, he is so excited about the haunting that he loses focus of exactly what kind of danger he has brought into his home.

While I must say that I enjoyed this movie, it took some time to get into the groove.  It takes too long in the beginning, mostly setting up characters and subplots that go nowhere.  We're introduced to four members of Matt's investigation team, each with their own set of problems that don't get resolved, then only have one of them come back towards the end.  There is one scene that's set outside that could have used some ADR.  You can hear every bit of background noise from the cars on the road behind them.  That may have been a choice on the part of Pacheco, but I can't be certain.  In some places, the timeline was confusing.  A lot of scenes seemed like they were taking place at night, then someone would open a door and there would be daylight, and vice versa.  There are some homages to Tobe Hooper's Poltergeist, including several scenes in the kitchen and some stacking by the spirit, substituting dining room chairs for groceries.  Nods to Poltergeist II as well, with some phantom phone calls popping up from time to time.

Even though it may sound like I'm complaining, American Poltergeist is a good watch if you really enjoy films that revolve around the paranormal.  And at a brisk 76 minutes, it's good to throw on if you want to watch something spooky, but don't have a whole afternoon to dedicate to a movie.

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