Today: July 19, 2024

The Lost Episode

A local TV crew go to the infamous Pennhurst psychiatric asylum on a mission to capture some paranormal activity on camera.

A local TV crew go
to the infamous Pennhurst psychiatric asylum on a mission to capture some
paranormal activity on camera. As the group are picked off one by one,
something more terrifying than ghosts lurks in the shadows.

The found footage
sub genre has already started to show signs of over saturation, from its humble
beginnings in The Blair Witch Project to the Paranormal Activity
franchise to the countless indie attempts and mockbusters. There’s certainly no
shortage of choice when it comes to this type of horror, so it’s rather
perplexing that this movie has been marketed and packaged as one but there’s
very little found footage on offer in the film itself.

Character actor Michael
(Slither, Walking Dead) makes his directorial debut
and briefly appears in this confused horror movie. Haylie Duff (younger sister to Disney
star Hilary Duff) features as Megan,
although her screen-time barely qualifies for her for top billing.

A group of
teenagers are taking a late night look around the now abandoned asylum, they
start to tell the story of a missing TV film crew and through flashbacks the
story unfolds of what took place there that fateful night. Predictably the
group of teens dismiss the story as an urban legend and discover, too late,
that they’re all in mortal danger.

The concept has
potential and the ghost story element is a valid story-telling device but the
narrative is too convoluted for its own good and it becomes difficult to grasp
what’s going on. In addition to the confusion, there are several lighting
inconsistencies throughout which compromise the film, in one scene it flips
from over exposed to pitch black from shot to shot mid dialogue exchange.

Splitting the
story between the teens regaling the tale and the film crew quickly becomes
cluttered, there are too many characters to balance and both stories are
incredibly generic. The production does make good use of the location, but
there are sadly few scares or suspenseful moments to satisfy even a novice
horror fan’s appetite.

Things get better
(or worse for the doomed teens) when Michael Rooker shows up at the half way
mark as Doctor Death, this brings around a slightly more focused idea of what
type of horror film it is. There’s some nasty torture, and the briefest splash
of gore, followed by a heavy dose of exposition but then the story is reduced
to lots of running around screaming. Naturally as this is a horror movie
there’s the obligatory sex scene, which for the most part is nothing more than
some fiercely uncomfortable dry humping.

Michael Rooker has
been plugging away in supporting roles for almost 30 years, his haunting
performance as Henry Lee Lucas in the highly acclaimed Henry: Portrait of a
Serial Killer
won him an Independent Spirit Award nomination and the
attention of Hollywood producers. It’s an unfortunate to be negative about such
an admired actor making the leap into directing but sadly there is little to
like about The Lost Episode.

Recently cult
movie star Michael Biehn made a sleazy but entertaining grind-house
homage flick The Victim, made for around the same money as The Lost
Episode, Biehn’s movie was a no frills guilty pleasure. So it’s a real shame
Rooker’s movie wasn’t made in the same tongue-in-cheek overblown style.
Considering he’s been directed by the likes of Oliver Stone, George A
Romero, Tony Scott, Michael Mann
and indie king Kevin Smith, you’d
have thought some of that creative flare might have rubbed off.

Coming in at a
brisk 75 minutes everything feels rushed, there’s little time for character
development, even by horror movie standards. The multi-story strands demand a
longer movie as we’re not given enough time to really care about any of the
characters in peril. There’s a
good story hidden somewhere within this movie, but the end results are just too
messy to pick through.

The Pennhurst
Asylum is a real place in the US and has been featured on numerous episodes of
America Haunts’. The former hospital has a history shrouded in
supernatural phenomena. A few years ago a haunted attraction opened up there and
has been freaking out paying customers brave enough to endure the nightmare, it’s
a shame a film set there barely raises any real scares.

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