Sunday, 4 November 2012

GhostWatch (1992) Review

Title: GhostWatch

Year of Release: 1992

Director: Lesley Manning

RATING:      5    /    5

GhostWatch is a British made-for-TV movie which aired on Halloween night under the pretence that it was a live broadcast, and all the actors were actual BBC reporters pretty much playing themselves. Apparently a lot of Brits took this to mean it was real and were scared silly by it. Given that this effect is lost on me, I can only judge the movie as extremely obvious fiction with actors I know nothing about. And, as such, the movie is one of my absolute favourite horror films.

This film is the much more accomplished parent of today's Paranormal Activities. The "Live Special" is about a family who have been experiencing poltergeist activity in their house. They have managed to get a few of the interactions on tape and on photo. We get to see the TV show host and a parapsychologist who has been studying the case sit in a studio and discuss the evidence, including call ins they receive from people all over Britain who share similar experiences. Meanwhile, a live crew from the channel has set up cameras all over the family's house, and is hoping that they will manage to capture some of the poltergeist activity and broadcast it live.

I think GhostWatch owes its success to its absolutely perfect execution of the mocumentary format. While always obvious that it is fake due to the subject matter, you would never think it based on the actors. They are all perfectly convincing in their roles, and you would struggle if you tried to find any differences between this movie and a real TV special from that time period.

The realism is maintained by their approach to all the creepy/paranormal scenes as well. All the photographs and other footage they examine is very ambiguous, none of it seems like an obvious fabrication. The actual in-house scenes where the reporters are hoping to capture the poltergeist live are equally grounded and that makes them all the more creepy. That crawl space where Pipes lives was freaky as hell despite not much being revealed. This is the kind of movie that scares you with the things it didn't show rather than the things it showed, and lets your active imagination do the rest when you're trying to fall asleep after watching it.

GhostWatch is an absolute horror classic for me. It is the best entry in both the paranormal presence subgenre AND in the found footage / mocumentary subgenre.

RATING:      5    /    5

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