Futile as it is, it seems that filmmakers remain intent on squeezing every last ounce of blood from the found footage genre. Over the last couple of years in particular there have been some decidedly poor efforts, including A Night in the Woods, Frost and Paranormal Activity 4: The Marked Ones. Now we have Tanzeal Rahim’s debut feature Muirhouse, which, with all things considered is just another film churned out on to the found footage conveyor belt that will disappear down into oblivion when it reaches the end.
After meetings with his agent and radio campaigners, author and ghost hunter Philip Muirhouse (Iain P.F. McDonald) is preparing to promote his new book The Dead Country by filming a documentary. His base will be the Monte Cristo homestead in Junee, New South Wales, in a house which is rumoured to be Australia’s most haunted residence. When the other two members of his team fail to join him by nightfall, Philip is left alone in the house to tell on film the violent and eerie story of deceased former inhabitants The Crawleys who now reputedly haunt every corner of the homestead. However, as the night draws on, Philip becomes increasingly troubled by sinister noises and remains determined to discover the root of these strange occurrences.
McDonald does give a fairly admirable performance as Muirhouse, but the film’s dialogue in general is poorly scripted and badly projected, with two standout examples being the homestead caretaker, Olive Ryan (Libby Ashby) and some radio show voice actors. In the opening scene of the film we see a crazed Philip being stopped by the police as he stumbles around by the roadside, half stripped, covered in blood and clutching a mallet. Given this opening sequence, you do actually want to find out what happened to this poor guy. Unfortunately though from this point on there is a real lack of suspense. As the back story begins we see a number of overly long static shots of the homestead and of a reel to reel tape machine displaying unidentifiable recordings. Philip’s time in the house is primarily spent roaming around with a torch in one hand and camcorder in the other and of course more long static shots, this time of the interior. Following the odd thump or floorboard creak, so much empty time passes that it becomes increasingly annoying. Despite admirably swearing a lot as most of us would do when faced with bumps in the night, as a self-confessed ghost hunter, Philip’s only attempt to communicate with the supposed entities is the odd “Who’s there?” coupled with forced, melodramatic heavy breathing when he gets a fright. Clearly Rahim is trying to create a powerful and terrifying build up, but the effect on the viewer is more like climbing a mountain only to find there is no view from the top.
It probably was quite unsettling in itself filming with a small crew inside a famously haunted house and to give the film some credit, it does improve to some degree halfway through when things finally move on a little with more scares. The horror of unseen entities in the same vein as Paranormal Activity and the question of whether they may have violent intentions is somewhat disturbing. However, if you watch this one, just don’t expect any explanations or resolutions as you will be left disappointed.