This movie is a curious one for me. This movie was mentioned on Reddit’s r/horror subreddit, but had more scathing reviews than positive ones. When I looked into the movie further, I was intrigued by the film’s pedigree. The conceit is one that is becoming more and more common, therefore to an extent, trite, but the fact that Oliver Stone’s boy directed this movie captured my attention. And yeah, it’s that Oliver Stone, who plays a fictionalized version of himself, sort of, even though he’s in the movie for less than five minutes total, if that much.
Films set in or revolving around “young filmmakers” going into abandoned mental health facilities is a trend that when coupled with the already exhausted found footage trope, sets up a bad expectation for most viewers, it seems. So many of the negative comments about the movie were posted by people who had yet to see it, having only viewed the trailer at that point in time. And I get it, horror fans are wondering when originality will be back in vogue and filmmakers begin to move away from two annoying tropes. But, it’s my experience with this film that there is still some room for pleasant surprises.
The film is a found footage relic, for better or worse, and starts off innocuously enough as a group of friends films each other and sets up the exposition portion of the movie. The history or “lore” of the location, Greystone Park, is revealed in a more playful way, thanks to Oliver Stone’s participation. But, it’s still a chunk of clunky exposition being dumped on the viewer, so there’s that to deal with.
And honestly, the movie escalates rather quickly once all of the perfunctory beats of “oh, don’t go in there, you’ll regret it” have been hit, and we establish the two male douchebag leads, as well as the standard damsel in distress. But once the ball gets rolling, it gets going with a vengeance. The first ten or so minutes actually inside are a little annoying, as we’ve seen those scenes played out several times before, and executed much better. The infiltration of the site is necessary but again, it’s been done better before.
So much of this movie is made up of lacking sequences, ones that don’t really drive the narrative anywhere but to the next sequence, not the next story beat, if that makes sense. However, after a series of “oh shit, where’d so-and-so go?!” and “They were RIGHT HERE! How did we lose them?!” types of sequences, we meet the catalyst for the last act, which is the arrival of the jagweed friend who “set up” the visit to the facility. Once he and his girlfriend show up, they begin to antagonize the first group, severely harshing their situation.
The last twenty minutes are the most fun for me, as we see just about everyone get punished for dicking around with a sacred site. And there is a sequence right near the end inside of a chapel that just kinda blew me away how out of whack it was, in a beautifully fucked up kinda way. The sight of a Baphomet usually disturbs me, and in this sequence there is a live one, kinda just, you know, hanging out at the altar of this chapel. No big. But the scene is shot in a very surreal, almost dream-like way that makes sense, considering how jacked up the remaining two dudes are at this point. Overall, the ending is a bit of a let down, but there kind of is nowhere else for the narrative to go at that point, in my opinion. But those moments of weak filmmaking are outweighed by some really fun sequences that kept me along for the ride. This movie did not reinvent anything, but had some playful moments with the genre worth keeping my interest.