A young couple (Stephen Wastell and Paula Ficara) move from the East Coast to LA withdreams of writing screenplays. Their new house is on a hill that was once part of Tom Mix’sHollywood studio, and all their neighbours are in the movie business in one way or another.Ficara is recovering from a nervous breakdown, and when she begins to see ghosts, she assumes,at first, that she is having a relapse. But then Wastell not only becomes inhumanly productive,banging out a script i… record-time and securing the interest of power players, but he alsochanges, becoming increasingly sinister.
There are more than a few echoes of The Shining here, a debt writer/director/editorStefan Avalos has acknowledged. Shot on video for next-to-nothing, the film has solidperformances by its leads, and conjures up a good atmosphere of unease. There are also a coupleof very solid shocks with ghosts leaping out of closets and the like. The special effects are veryambitious for a film of these means, but in a number of cases we see the ghosts altogether tooclearly. The film is at its best when it has the courage of its subtleties, and the prowlingcamerawork belies the budget.
The sound is 5.1, but the limitations of the film’s means must be factored in. Nonetheless themovie has a big sound. The dialogue is occasionally plagued by distorting reverb, but the soundeffects are superb. A scene late in the film, where Ficara is tormented by voices, has these voicescircling around the room in a most effective fashion.
The case claims the film is presented in a widescreen format, but this is not the case, or atleast, not really. The picture appears fullscreen on standard monitors, and is revealed as veryslightly widescreen on 16×9 screens (1.66:1 at the very most, but looking more like 1.37:1). Thevideo limitations are apparent — some shimmer, bleaching of colours, softness, drabness andgrain — but the transfer itself is sharp. There is some ghosting during the night scenes.
Avalos and producer Marianne Cannon do the commentary, and they have plenty ofrevealing no-budget tales to tell (including the fact that the movie was shot in their house). Notethat the commentary cuts out the audio from the film completely. There is an isolated track forthe score, and in between cues composer Vincent Gillioz talks about the music. The threefeaturettes are “Behind the Scenes of the Production” (a video diary by Connor), “Behind theSpecial Effects” and “The Re-Making of Scene 125.” All three are infinitely superior to, and farmore informative than, their equivalents on big-budget releases. Avalos also provides optionalcommentary on 7 deleted scenes. Finally, there’s the trailer and FX production artwork by ScottHale. The menu is atmospherically scored and animated, but the transitions are too lugubriouslypaced.
Nice to see a small, independent project given a deluxe release of this kind. The film itselfisn’t a bad ghost story either.
Special Features List
- Audio Commentary
- Isolated Music Track with Composer Commentary
- “Behind the Scenes of the Production” Video Diary
- “Behind the Special Effects” Featurette
- “The Re-Making of Scene 125” Featurette
- Deleted Scenes with Optional Director’s Commentary
- FX Production Artwork Gallery