The Haunting of the Murder House (2022)

Rating: C+

Dir: Brendan Rudnicki
Star: Sarah Tyson, Dylan DeVane, Tyler Miller, Kellan Rudnicki

DBS Films is quite the small-scale powerhouse, with this being the tenth low-budget feature they’ve cranked out since 2017. Seems like they’re gurus of social media marketing, with over 175.000 followers and 600,000 email subscribers. That said, I was not especially impressed by The Girl in Cabin 13, which didn’t have anything to make it stand out in the “home invasion” field. This is better, certainly surpassing the expectations I had on reading this synopsis: “In October, four filmmakers disappeared in a haunted house while live streaming on social media. A year later, their footage was found.” Regular readers will know my stoic dislike for footage that has been found, so the first pleasant surprise was, that isn’t really the genre here.

Yes, it’s paranormal investigators in a haunted house, hardly a new concept. At least it’s not hampered by being restricted to just what they themselves film. While it’s part of it, this forms only one element – and a relatively minor one at that. The rest, to my relief, is more conventional film-making. Indeed, sometimes a bit too conventional, in that there’s a good deal of reliance on jump scares. I get it: they’re easy, cheap and can be effective. But I’m a jaded old hack, who these days, wouldn’t “voom” if you put four million volts through me. The film is better when either going for the jugular e.g. literally, with someone getting their head sawn off, or building atmosphere. Mannequins in clown masks may not exactly be subtle, yet they’re creepy as hell.

The set-up here is the house belonging to serial killer Lester Morgan, who kidnapped and killed half a dozen young women before being shot by the cops. The residence has remained boarded-up since, until the four participants of The Otherside channel show up. There’s presenters Harper (Tyson) and Kai (Miller); intern Dylan (Devane); and producer Kellan (Rudnicki). After breaking in, the last-named chains the door shut so they can’t leave, no matter what happens, and retires to the truck to co-ordinate the stream. That leaves the other three on the inside. Things proceed about as you’d expect, with a gradual escalation from spooky noises to full-on possession. There’s a nice touch where Harper and Kai argue about whether or not to fake evidence for the sake of viewing figures, though reality soon surpasses any prerecorded spookiness.

I’d like to have seen more advantage taken of the interactive nature of the medium in which they’re operating, something Deadstream did much better. Here, it’s limited to a couple of “challenges”, and one of these – the ouija board – all but kills the movie’s momentum. In general, this does not break any boundaries or, to be honest, possess much originality; it shares that flaw with Cabin 13. The difference here, is the execution is improved. By the time the door slams shut for the final time, it has acquired enough momentum to the point I did not feel I had wasted my time.