May 14, 2013

REVIEW: A HAUNTING AT SILVER FALLS


Jordan (Alix Elizabeth Gitter) is going through a rather bad patch. After the untimely death of her father, she finds herself living across the country with her older sister/new guardian Anne (Tara Westwood) and her sister's boyfriend, Kevin (Steve Bacic). Originally from Los Angeles, and now living in Silver Falls (exact location unknown), Jordan forces herself to move on and attempt to be a simple teenager, meaning she's off to parties filled with beer, pills, and fiery mannequins. While living in Silver Falls, she manages to attract the attention of two boys: Larry (James Calvo), a very hipstery non-cool kid who isn't cool because he wears your grandmother's glasses, and Robbie, (Tadgh Kelly), your resident cool kid who is cool because he has cool hair.

Jordan has also attracted the ghost of a young girl that seems to be haunting Silver Falls, thanks to a ring she found in the woods while evading the party-busting police. This ghost likes to scream at her using Halloween party store sound effects while wearing a heavy sheen of goo across her face. It even tries to drown her in the bathtub. Inspired by true events, indeed. Day by day, Jordan begins to delve into the mystery behind this haunting figure, who won't stop following her and giving her the creepy creeps, until she becomes determined to put the girl's tortured spirit to rest. 

Pretty unorthodox, if I must say!


Despite my good-natured ribbing, A Haunting at Silver Falls is a decent little film. The acting is sound, bolstered by the appearance of the always fun Erick Avari (The Mummy, Flight of the Living Dead) as Jordan's unlikable shrink, Dr. Parish. The events of the film, particularly the haunting of Jordan by "The Doll Twins," are approached in a somber and serious way, which is refreshing. The ghost themselves aren't always handled in the best way - budget constraints and an underwhelming make-up design can sometimes stunt the potential for genuine scares, but there are some nice "gotcha" moments scattered throughout. The ghost twins we repeatedly see don't look like ghosts so much as things supposed to look like ghosts, if that makes any sense, so while they're not entirely a success, that doesn't mean they're not still creepy during specific scenes.

Oh...but that ending. God damn it. Endings can be described as unpredictable for two reasons: either because the filmmakers leading the charge have skillfully laid down the clues for you to pick up and foretell the twist to come, or because it is so completely out of left field that you don't feel stupid for not having seen it coming. An ending is everything, and a bad one can be detrimental...unless your movie was good enough from the start to trump said ending. I tend to use Haute Tension as the prime example in that regard - an absolute cheat of an ending, but not enough to ruin the ridiculous and over the top manner of the first two acts. (Don't read too much into the comparison - one's ending is not indicative of the other's.)

And that's the problem here. A Haunting at Silver Falls is good, well made, but not quite enough to overcome its silly and unnecessarily bleak ending.

Writer/director Brett Donowho shows skill behind the camera. He frames his shots and uses darkness like a person putting actual thought into his film. No shaking camera, no bogus and frantic editing. The story is old fashioned in its design - dead girls, a lost ring, a town secret. It's not the most original story you're apt to see in this genre, but it's still pure, and that's what matters. There's even an effort to develop nearly all the characters that appear on screen, including the character of Kevin, who in any other film would be a completely underutilized and superfluous trope - a walking meat suit to eventually be ghosted to death.


I like small town horror stories because these environments more effortlessly feel like home than any other setting. Cities are glamorous and all, and ripe for large scale destruction, but small towns are supposed to be comforting and wholesome. They'e not supposed to be the scene of vicious crimes and dark histories. But when they are, there's something that much more disturbing about it all.

I could easily see other reviewers giving A Haunting at Silver Falls a tough time, calling it unoriginal and mundane. But when I watch films like this, and I can see an honest attempt to craft something beyond blood, guts, and fancy editing, I'm inclined to only show encouragement.

Weak ending aside, I still recommend A Haunting at Silver Falls. It's one of the better under the radar ghost flicks to come out in quite some time.

It hits video May 28th. Pre-order it.





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17 comments:

  1. Worst movie ever! AWFUL NOT SCARY DUMB. I think i'm actually retarded now from watching this film. I think the actors were bad except the guy from mr. deeds. dumb don't watch. Be warned not scary just dumb. I beg I plead DO NOT WATCH. If you watch watch at your own risk of becoming stupid from this stupid film!

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  2. I agree anonymous it was horrible!!!!

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  3. nope, watch it and try to piece everythin together. see if u get it rite instead.. solid 3 out of 5

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  4. It's her aunt NOT her older sister.

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  5. I live in the town where this was shot, so I found certain elements a little distracting. Like how they kept calling the town "Silver Falls" instead of Silverton, which is it's actual name. Also, they keep driving across the Gallon House Bridge, even though it's an access point to nothing. And the park in the beginning isn't in the woods at all. And the police are driving Stayton patrol cars; Silverton isn't in Stayton's jurisdiction. And not ONE scene actually took place at Silver Falls, although they reference it plenty (also, there is no waterfall named "Silver Fall" it is a park that includes many. The one described by the sexual predator highschool douchebag is "Middle North Falls"). Also other logistical errors, like when the protagonist's aunt tells her she doesn't want to drive her 40 minutes to "the next nearest psychiatrist" when Mt. Angel is only 10 minutes away and Salem is only 20 and later they say that it's "30 minutes to Portland". Which it isn't. More like an hour. Silly. If you're wondering why I'm criticising ticky-tack bs like location and prop issues with the film it's because nothing ever happens in this movie ever. Nothing scary happens, the end is pulled out of the writer's ass, and when they go to Mac's Place I'm not there, which is far-fetched because I often go there to watch hockey. This movie is a non-event which is disappointing because the location could've been used better, it's a very Silent Hill-esque small town, and the cinematography is solid. If only they had characters and a story to film then we'd have something. AND when the aunt and uncle go on their date they drive to the Inn down Water St. which doesn't have a restaurant inside. Sorry, I'll stop.

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    1. Did they at least get the ghost part right?

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    2. No. Although they did find a Volkswagon Beetle with a body in it and some dead cows when they drained the reservoir. I think that would've made for a more interesting story. WHO KILLED THOSE COWS?! We may never know...

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    3. You're one of those people I hate to watch movies with, aren't you? It's called suspension of belief. Just because the movie was filmed in your town doesn't mean that actually takes place in your town as it exists to you.

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    4. Yeah, it's pretty insane. I lived in Salem around the time this was being done and can honestly say there was huge potential for a good movie there, with how ominous Silverton can be at night, and hell, would have had free extras if they'd decided to shoot it at Stu's theater around Rocky horror season. You're also completely correct about the geography, it was woefully underused.

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    5. This movie was not about how different the fictional City of Silver Falls verses the actual town. most people don't live in your town so I doubt the "distraction" would be a problem.

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    6. Dude....Seriously???? It's a movie, not a documentary.

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  6. they filmed it at my school so I thought it was cool but the movie sucked

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  7. I just want someone to please explain the ending to me... i am lost!!!!!

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  8. It was such a horrible movie. It started things it didn't finish. Like how Robbie told Jordan that he had something to show her, and then it was never followed through. Major continuity issues. Also, the acting was bad towards the end. Jordan looked like she was laughing instead of crying.

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  9. well seen the movie didn't like it cause how the movie ended it was dumb cause they just left an didn't call the cops or r they going to make a part two or what?????

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  10. I felt like it was a decent movie, but it did leave some stuff out. Previously stated, what Robbie wanted to show Jordan was unexplained and i never did figure out how Holly died. They only really stated that she watched Heather get killed but never said anything about her death.

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