Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Haunted House Project (Pyega / 폐가)

The formula is simple. Find an abandoned location, and if it comes with a built in horror premise, use it. Otherwise, one can always make something up, and through documentary styled interviews, hire enough convincing actors to play make believe and give arresting, spooky accounts. Then adopt the latest fad of shooting in the first person complete with quesy-cam technique, exploiting light and shadow, with sudden bursts of movement and sound. Voila, a horror film of today's standards.

Singapore has already contributed to this subgenre with Haunted Changi, and it's no surprise that the formula is resonating throughout the world, that now we get to see the Korean equivalent with The Haunted House Project. We follow a documentary crew of three - the producer, soundwoman and cameraman - who are making a film featuring 3 paranormal hobbyists in their maiden trip to this food factory where the owner and his family got mysteriously killed no thanks in part to the owner's infidelity. We spend some time sitting through interview segments where the controversy gets a different spin by almost everyone on camera, and frankly, we get the idea, though the filmmakers want to hammer this point through.

Beginning ominously like a typical Found Footage film with disclaimers and archival recordings abound, so begins our look at the events that had unfolded which contributed to the disappearance of the team of 6. An abandoned place normally gives up some creepy vibes since the weather has brow-beaten the entire facade, and decay sets in to everything within, where litter gets strewn everywhere, and I have to admit, if this is not a real location, then the art direction gets full marks for making the entire outdoor set spooky from the onset.

With paranormal enthusiasts as some of the characters, the fun comes with observing how they believe in their tools of the trade, and gamely explain and "star" in the documentary made about them and of the location, with little moments reserved for monkeying around. There's nothing much to the story as we the audience are here to witness anything spooky that got captured in their video reel, and again, credit has got to be given for holding everyone's attention span throughout the 83 minutes, especially the build up into a crescendo of a finale where everything got mashed together rapidly and in succession, leaving one with no room to panic or to breathe.

Those who get motion sickness easy may find the cinematography here a little of a torture since it moves all over the place, and gets interspersed with plenty of cheaply done, in-your-face momentary shots of some "ghoul", and scratchy visuals to signify the presence of something supernatural. At least the filmmakers are kind enough to cue you in when something is about to happen, and thereby adding to the tensed environment. Technical loopholes such as the inclusion of a polished sountrack also bewildered and marred what could have been a credible stab toward authenticity. Don't expect great acting here, but the cast did reasonably well as scream kings and queens trying to escape the inevitable. As the saying goes, don't tempt Fate, and be careful what you wish for.

The Haunted House Project works according to formula, so don't expect anything groundbreaking coming out of it.

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