The problem with the spate of handheld, found-footage ghost films that have arrived post Paranormal Activity is that they are hounded by the success and pitch-perfect horror of
that film. Still, a bad film is a bad film, and unfortunately that’s exactly what The Paranormal Incident is. Since Paranormal Activity has already nailed the format, films centered on found footage hauntings have to do something different or they just fade into monotony and The Paranormal Incident doesn’t even try.
The film follows a group of students, half who believe in the paranormal, half who don’t, as they spend a night at the apparently haunted Odenbrook Sanatorium. Armed with motion sensors, high frequency sound equipment, and plenty of cameras, the team are out to prove or disprove the existence of ghosts. The story is relayed post-events with the one survivor being shown the footage by a police officer who suspects he murdered his friends.
Initially the set-up intrigues, swapping from hospital room to four days prior builds a certain interest, but the flatness of the characters, who we don’t get any time to know, and the stunted nature of the dialogue slowly pulls the viewer past interested and straight into disappointed. Once inside the sanatorium events trundle along at a predictable pace, and the continual cuts back to the hospital actually fracture the mood, halting any sustained scare. Another major issue with the film that keeps it trapped under mediocre is its complete reliance on jump-scares and sudden noises, rather than making the effort to construct any sort of sustained menace or apprehension. What the audience needs is more reason to be scared of the Odenbrook rather than a brief intro, some kid’s drawings, and found footage of the cheesy variety. Eventually the film spirals into a murky mess of disappearances and manic camera shaking which leaves the viewer completely confused as to the fate of the characters. The final ten minutes reaches for something more, alluding to a story beyond the film, but it seems like a childish copy of the X-Files and it’s this that leaves the viewer with a bad taste.
The Paranormal Incident relies on recycled uninspired horror stock, features some truly woeful plot devices, and the acting of its entire cast is not overly convincing. If more time had been spent letting us get to know the characters then we would have cared for their strife, likewise if more subtle and original scare-tactics had been employed from the start of the film then we might have actually hid behind our hands.
Director: Mathew Bolton
Stars: Oliver Rayon, Chelsea Vincent, Brett Edwards