A trio of crappy Hollywood ghost movies from the new millennium

At a time when Asian horror was blowing our minds with creepy assed supernatural insanity, Hollywood tried to jump on the bandwagon…but fell off hard then got trampled by the horse and run over by all four wheels. 

DARKNESS (2002)

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Here’s an idea. Make a movie called Darkness, have the premise be that turning off lights will cause the darkness to consume you, then wait until the last five minutes to actually demonstrate that premise.

A pre-True Blood Anna Paquin moves to a house in Spain with her family. At first you might think you’re watching The Entity, because Lena Olin, who plays Anna’s mother, looks and acts distractingly just like Barbara Hershey. It’s the most freakish thing about the movie, which seems to attempt the tension building slow burn of the original Poltergeist, but fails miserably.

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We are plunged into a nightmarishly boring story of an entirely unlikeable family that has a dysfunctional past (and present). Spielberg’s lovable, sugary sweet 80s Freeling family they are not. To remind us this depressing dreck is a horror film, the lights blink on and off constantly, Anna’s little brother can’t keep his colored pencils from rolling under his bed, and a fleeting image keeps running past the camera. Constant choppy editing is generously used as a substitute for excitement.

Despite Darkness sucking so bad, the plot is actually really good. As the family unit unravels, Anna and her fast boyfriend investigate the house’s past and learn it was built for a satanic ritual involving the sacrificing of seven children. So we also occasionally see the ghost of six dead children. Uh-oh.

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Unfortunately, the movie goes absolutely nowhere. Like I said, the true danger of losing all light sources is only introduced in the last few minutes. This makes for a Silent Hill-esque sequence, complete with a creepy thing crawling on the ceiling and characters suddenly having evil doppelgangers running around—none of which was even vaguely developed in the hour and a half of movie that came before.

AN AMERICAN HAUNTING (2005)

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It’s beyond me why this disaster felt the need to have a pointless wraparound about a modern day girl getting an eerie vibe in her house. Moments later, the film jettisons back to 1800s charm, inflaming my loathing of period pieces even worse.

In this retelling of the infamous Bell Witch legend, Donald Sutherland steals some old lady’s land, so she curses he and his daughter. The whole family spends the rest of the movie following the camera with their eyes, because it apparently represents the malevolent spirit that they can see even if we don’t.

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Adding to the cliché scares are what appears to be a wolf familiar, thunder and lighting, shit banging and being tossed around, a lame exorcism, Sissy Spacek constantly comforting her terrorized daughter, and excessive Hollywood orchestral cues that completely kill the mood.

The little girl also gets tossed about in her bed and attacked viciously, with very underplayed hints about her budding sexuality having something to do with the haunting. Full exploration of this angle could have made this one at least somewhat interesting.

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Within this lame assed piece of crap is a cool scene of a horse and carriage crashing. It’s the only redeeming moment. But not even that matters once you see the horrendous closing scene that takes place in the present day. Awful.

DARK WATER (2005)

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Before The Babadook dragged down the fun of being scared with its deep, heavy-handed look at a broken mother and child, Dark Water pulled it off with poor use of all the Asian horror clichés of its day (it’s a remake of an Asian horror film).

Jennifer Connelly is in a huge custody battle over her daughter, with whom she’s just moving into a new, creepy apartment building. You know it’s going to be bad when the daughter disappears during the initial tour in an effort to create some (totally bogus) suspense.

Jennifer has to contend with a drip in her ceiling, a nasty caretaker, a spooky elevator, a troublesome washing machine, a couple of punks, and occasionally, a ghost girl. She also has to deal with figurative ghosts from her past.

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If you’ve seen The Ring, you’ve pretty much seen a way better version of the same plot. The spookiest thing about Dark Water is how it parallels the real life Elisa Lam elevator/water tank case, which came years after it.

About Daniel

I am the author of the horror anthologies CLOSET MONSTERS: ZOMBIED OUT AND TALES OF GOTHROTICA and HORNY DEVILS, and the horror novels COMBUSTION and NO PLACE FOR LITTLE ONES. I am also the founder of BOYS, BEARS & SCARES, a facebook page for gay male horror fans! Check it out and like it at www.facebook.com/BoysBearsandScares.
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