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What the Hell Were They Thinking?!

God knows how many thousands of horror films in, and these prospective homeowners are still not asking their realtors if any heinous, possibly demon possession influenced murders have been committed in the home.

Curse of the PoltergeistCast of Characters:
Taryn – Addy Green
Dianna – Donna Spangler
Michael – Luke Brandon Field
Niki – Nikole Howell
Jenna – Jaime Sarchet
Scott – Jakob Renken
Lizzie – Nicole Holland
Officer Alvarez – Nevada Vargas

Director – Mike Rutkowski
Screenplay – Nicole Holland & Mike Rutkowski
Producer – Donna Spangler, Richard Benveniste, Nicole Holland, Mike Rutkowski & Shawn Lukaszewicz
Not Rated

Curse of the Poltergeist Featured 4Wanting a little bit of freedom away from the campus lifestyle, Michael (Luke Brandon Field), his sister Taryn (Addy Green), girlfriend Niki (Nikole Howell) and friends Jenna (Jaime Sarchet) and Scott (Jakob Renken) all go in together on sharing a rental home in the suburbs. They’re getting a sweet deal from the landlady, Dianna (Donna Spangler), too, only $325 a month!!

Because grisly murders took place in that home.

Oh, and that rent is including utilities too!!

Because grisly murders took place in that home.

Despite Michael, Niki, Jenna and Scott’s excitement at having a place of their own, Taryn’s gotta be the wet blanket bitch of the group with her bad vibes pissing in everyone else’s cheerios.

You know what the source of those bad vibes might be? It might be from all the people in the past that were horrifically hacked to pieces in the very same home you five will be living in.

Turns out Taryn’s fears are confirmed the moment she starts experiencing disturbing paranormal phenomena, such as suicides by hanging and dismembered bodies, all of which soon reveal a horrifying secret buried deep within the home.

And none of which was disclosed at the house viewing ’cause these five dumb asses failed to ask their realtor about the house’s history.

Seriously, kids, what else do you need to see for the warning light to kick on?

  • Taryn’s experiencing paranormal hallucinations.
  • The entire home is adorned with every sort of creepy doll and mannequin you can think of.
  • Your landlady talks like she’s either zonked out on dope and (or) lithium, just had a lobotomy or maybe she’s possibly possessed by an evil entity.
  • YOU’RE PAYING $325/MONTH, INCLUDING UTILITIES, ON A MANSION THAT LOOKS LIKE WARREN BUFFET HIMSELF WOULD GET DENIED FOR A PRE-APPROVAL!!

How many fucking red flags need to pop up before you start seeing even the faintest sign of red?

For the record, my monthly mortgage payment is $400/month and that’s not including utilities, but you know what I get in return for paying far more a month than those five do?

Blissful sleep free of any worry over being brutally mutilated into a dozen bloody pieces.

Curse of the Poltergeist Featured 5Curse of the Poltergeist, alternatively titled American Poltergeist (probably as a means to confuse potential viewers from finding this celluloid turd), is a noticeably, very very noticeably, low-budget flick that could’ve spared its protagonist/victims and, more importantly, its viewers any trouble if it had only made its protagonist/victims smart enough to ask their realtor about the house’s history.

“Oh, people were murdered in this house? Okay, we’ll pass. Whelp! Back to dormitory living it is. Sure, the Skrillex blasting through my paper thin walls from the dorm next to me will make it hard to concentrate on my homework, my roommate fucking a different college floosy every night five feet from my bed will eventually start to wear on my nerves, and I’m already starting to flashback to my freshman year when I got pinned down by the football team and forced to butt-chug an entire 30 pack of Bud… but it’ll sure beat having my body axed and spaced out in twelve different locations around this house.”

Cue end credits.

16 Lessons Learned

1) Apparently, Dianna sounding one less heartbeat away from death and looking like she’s fresh off the taxidermy table is what passes as a “little eccentric”.

2) “Man, this house is wicked!” – I can’t tell if the writers meant that as foreshadowing or if their slang is stuck back in 1998.

3) “I’m having second thoughts about all this. I just feel like I’m missing out on the whole college experience.” – like sororities, athletic clubs, after-school activities and not being dismembered into itty bitty bits and pieces by a bitchy demon wielding a razor sharp axe.

4) According to Dianna, violently loud bangs against doors, floorboards and walls are “just the wind”.

5) The basement door is locked, has always been locked, and there’s no way to unlock it, says a definitely not sounding suspicious at all Dianna. I know what you’re thinking, but at this point, if every red flag preceding this giant, Vegas-sized neon sign red flag hasn’t deterred them, then these five deserve everything that happens to them.

6) The always was, always is and always will be locked basement door pops open for Taryn, probably from the wind. The wind was also responsible for the horrific visions she experiences down there and for somehow getting Niki to mysteriously wander down there and stare blankly at a wall. No worries, though, as the next day Michael tells worried sister that Niki’s sleepwalked a couple times… No big deal.

7) Literally five seconds later, Michael elevates Niki’s scary overnight adventure from a couple harmless sleepwalking incidents to full-blown sleeping disorder. Give him another five seconds, and he’ll go DEFCON 1 on her ass with daddy issues, two traumatic childhood experiences and a mental illness history.

8) Taryn explains how she’s the most rational one in her family by saying the most irrational statement she can possibly think of to her brother.

9) A frantic Taryn tries to escape by making a failed attempt to drive off in a car stuck in between two parked cars. It’s no surprise the ghost is quickly sifting through these victims like chaff on a wheat stalk ‘cause Taryn just exhibited a whole new level of stupid there.

10) The best way to handle strange and unsettling occurrences happening in the home is throw a party with lots of booze and cocaine.

11) “Tonight is like one of those nights in those Mike Myers movies.” – Wayne’s WorldWayne’s World 2? So I Married an Axe Murderer? Austin Powers? She certainly couldn’t have meant Halloween ’cause that would be MICHAEL Myers.

12) Niki knows nothing about Lizzie Borden ’cause “she’s from the West Coast”… No, Niki knows nothing about Lizzie Borden ’cause she’s a moron.

13) The wind was responsible for viciously slaughtering five party guests.

14) “Look, we can’t just stand here and argue family ancestry!!” – you’re right. That should’ve been brought up long before the shit hit the fan for you all.

15) Exorcisms: “Hey, there’s a first time for everything!”

16) When you have absolutely no idea how to perform an exorcism, I guess just repeat “God the Father commands you!” over and over again like a broken record ’cause apparently, half-assing the exorcising of a dangerous demonic minion of Lucifer works.

It’s not that Curse of the Poltergeist needed to reinvent the horror genre to be good. Firstly, you should know you’re not in store for a genre landmark when even the film’s title is taking the day off and phoning it in. Secondly, past horror films have borrowed heavily from other horror films and (or) fell prey to genre trappings and still turned out good. However, this film is plagued by a tragic lack of scares, suspenseful atmosphere – hell, this film can’t even bother with a moderate level of tension. Forget registering a pulse; this film barely registers a single beep on the heart monitor.

Curse of the Poltergeist Featured 3Co-writer/director Mike Rutkowski is hardly some nobody trying to push his little nothing of a film. Granted, he’s light years away from Spielberg or Scorsese (not sure why I had to make that clarification, as if I thought you’d think I felt otherwise, but oh well), but he still is an industry insider that has worked on such productions as Arrested Development, Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, David Goyer’s End of Watch, the Hunger Games franchise, and American Crime Story. The fact that he’s worked with A-listers both in front of and behind the camera can only beg the question as to how the fuck could he have put together something that at the very least is so technically inept? Between the lifeless score (what passes as haunting music here is a bang sound effect ripped out of the Law & Order playbook that accompanies the chaptered dates), poor camerawork and some bizarrely framed jumped scares, it’s clear not a single soul attached to this project has any idea how to make a marginally effective horror film, much less a great one.

Hell, scroll back up and take a look at the film’s poster. Yeah, absolutely nothing on that poster has anything to do with what appears in this film… Nothing. They couldn’t even get the poster right.

Curse of the Poltergeist Featured 6Equally problematic is Rutkowski’s sense of pacing, which bounces back and forth like a cracked-out head-banger between dragging ass and hauling ass. No kills take place during the film’s first 50 minutes, and with deep, engaging and fully-dimensional characters like we get here and an equally engaging villain that looks like she just hopped right out of the Raggedy Ann & Andy toy chest, why rush? But once it pushes the hour mark, it’s one kill, two kills, three kills, four kills and so on (whoever’s in charge of Dr. Seuss publishing, I have a new book proposal) in rapid-fire succession. There’s no proper buildup to the climactic massacre, unlike Tobe Hooper who showed in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre that you can hold off on the kills and then knock them down quickly bowling pin style, but still create a tightly paced sense of unease leading up to them.

The acting is, as you’d expect in a low-quality production, so stiff cardboard cutouts of the actors would’ve performed better. I’m not sure if someone had “incense” burning on set constantly or if everyone was zombified from one too many anti-depressants, but the inanimate dolls and mannequins placed all around the house showed more signs of life than this cast did (judging from Luke Brandon Field’s perpetually smug, smirking glazed over look, I’m putting my money on the former).

Curse of the Poltergeist Featured 2Let’s not place all the blame on the actors, however, as, talented or not, this script does them no favors. Forget the lack of originality. Forget the lame Lizzie Borden connection to the narrative that provides no insight into the Borden lore and just exists within this film as an in-name-only backstory (speaking of which, two incidents occurring a hundred years apart from the other is hardly what I’d call a “curse”). The most cringe-worthy sin found in Nicole Holland (who plays the axe-wielding Lizzie) and Rutkowski’s script is that the two can’t even write simple everyday dialogue. It’s as if neither has ever heard a conversation between two people in – well… ever. Cast Christoph Waltz. Cast Anthony Hopkins, Morgan Freeman – hell, let’s throw Daniel Day-Lewis in there too. Bring onboard the panachiest of all panache line deliverers and none of them could make gems like this work…

Michael: “Taryn is my… older sister.”

Taryn: “Stop, you’re making me feel old (????).”

Michael: “Well… you are.”

Taryn: “Only by one year.”

Niki: “I’m so happy I can be with you here.”

Michael: “I’m glad we finally live together… I think you should go in the pool.”

Dianna: “John didn’t have any children… he couldn’t… You were his only child (????????????).”

Michael: “We’re going to the store to get food and drink for Niki’s party later.”

Move over, David Mamet!

Judgment: From the wooden acting to the stale dialogue to its total lack of scares, Curse of the Poltergeist is a textbook example of amateur filmmaking at its worst that gives other superior amateur efforts a bad name. The crime committed here by this film isn’t its lack of originality. It’s the lack of earnest and effort shown in eye-sore detail in every single frame.

I rest my case.

Sentence: Prisoner’s choice – An extra 40 whacks from Lizzie’s axe, getting the fair-market value for what $325/month including utilities will get you in New England, which is probably a shed with a 5-gallon bucket serving as your shitter or being forced to listen for all eternity to Dianna drone her way through covers of Coldplay, the only band that can come close to matching her lethargy.

Review source: http://silverscreenfanatic.com/2018/01/01/what-the-hell-were-they-thinking-132/

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I’m originally from the Orlando-Sanford area in Florida. Moved up to Michigan as a kid and to this day, as Stevie Ray Vaughan once said, “Couldn’t stand the weather.”

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