On October of 2004, the then Sci Fi Channel premiered a new type of reality series titled Ghost Hunters. The program showcased paranormal investigators Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson, who along with their team investigated places that are supposedly haunted. The “ghost hunters” objective was to document the existence of the paranormal and even the supernatural. The television has proved so successful that it has served as a model for various other such reality shows, including Paranormal State (2007) and Ghost Adventures (2008). Thus, it was inevitable that a filmmaker would eventually tackle the genre, and one of the first movies to attempt it is 2010’s Evidence of a Haunting.
Evidence of a Haunting attempts to create the feel of a found-footage movie using the ghost hunter reality show genre as a springboard. Indeed, in some ways the movie feels like a mockumentary, gently poking fun at the genre, particularly when introducing the ghost hunters themselves. However, the filmmakers also attempt to create a horror movie out of this resultant mess, complete with an “emotional” coda, but by then it’s much too late, as viewers have likely turned off the movie and gone on to do something else.
The movie’s screenplay, courtesy of director Joey Evans (with a story assist from actress Jessica D. Fulling) centers on Rayne (the aforementioned Fulling) the leader of a paranormal investigative team. Not sure if the name is an intentional riff on the name Ryan from Paranormal State, but the character’s story arc is similar to that reality show. Regardless, Rayne leads her intrepid team through three hauntings, all possibly linked by events in her past life. The characters are eclectic, from Father Will Bowden (Scott Evans) and pagan priestess Shelley (Renee Wiggins) who begin to cultivate a romance to the medium Echo (Korin Medina) to documentarian Tor Johnson (Christopher Cassarino)—see what I mean about the mockumentary angle?
The story is broken into three “acts,” with the first one dealing with the possession of a little girl. Although seemingly a throwaway piece, this first component is essential, as key events play out in the final act, which takes place in an underground utility corridor at a major university.
Made on a shoestring budget, the movie attempts to evoke fear the old-fashioned way, using camera tricks, sound, and acting. Although the movie gets kudos for trying, many viewers will find that Evidence of a Haunting will prove difficult to sit through. The principal problem with the movie is not the script but rather the acting. Although all the performers work hard throughout the movie, the resultant performances are amateurish, with some actors delivering self-conscious performances and at times looking askance during the delivery of their lines. The problem is exacerbated by director Joey Evans, who uses first takes with glee, even when the actors flub lines.
Although the story itself has some fun ideas, the movie’s execution is much too bland, with tension never much of an issue. Thus, the movie is tedious, focusing a bit too much on the characters living out their mundane lives. When the ghost hunters actually encounter paranormal events, their reactions are also quite bland. Because the actors do not “sell” the fear, an audience viewing the film is likely to react in a similar way. Another problem is the script itself, which is at times ignorant of things like possession and how to exorcise demons. In the second episode, a poltergeist is given as a reason for a haunting, but it turns out to be a Native American shaman. Both are handled incorrectly and terribly.
What is really frustrating about this movie is that it misses so many opportunities. The final location is an ideal one, a series of cramped tunnels where a plethora of ghosts can exist. Instead of evoking a sense of fear and menace, the characters go through the motions, boring anyone watching. This is particularly exasperating when some of the characters are murdered—those who are still alive show little emotion. Adding to the boredom are cliché elements, such as possession, Ouija boards, and the afterlife. Although such clichés are typical for many horror flicks, the problem here is that the filmmakers do little to make such trappings stand apart from what has come before.
Perhaps the biggest problem with Evidence of a Haunting is that the movie takes “actual” accounts and attempts to incorporate them into its storyline. A key example is the movie’s climax, which has the ghost hunters tracking down a portal to hell monitored by the son of Satan. Such portals (not guarded by Satan’s son) are a key feature of paranormal investigations (Dead Files has featured some), but the most definitive one is taken from The Amityville Horror.
Can’t really recommend Evidence of a Haunting for even an initial viewing. If paranormal investigations are of interest, it would be better to watch any of the television reality shows in circulation. Some of them even stir up a little dread, something that this movie does not do.