“Meet the Haunteds” tells the story of a white family that moves in to a house haunted by black ghosts that have been there since the 1970s.
Reviewed by James A. Janisse
The Garlock Incident is a little low-budget horror flick made by filmmaker Evan J. Cholfin and his wife Ariana Farina. Shot in the ever-popular “found footage” style, the movie follows a director and her group of actors after they get stranded in the desert on their way to Las Vegas. Cholfin, Farina and their actors put a lot of time into creating a realistic background for the story, rooting the characters and their ill-fated trip in lots of social media sites. They have a Twitter, a Tumblr, a Facebook – all purportedly made by the families of the victims in search of their daughters and sons. It’s a commendable effort in making their movie stand out, but unfortunately, the film itself lacks any originality or pay-off for the short time we spend with these characters.
The story gets underway pretty quickly after director Lily, holding the camera and narrating most of the footage, suggests they make a stop at a ghost town called Garlock. The actors show varying signs of interest, but all of them are left upset after only finding ramshackle houses that may or may not have been recently inhabited. Even worse, they return to a van that won’t start. 60 miles from the nearest town, they have to decide what to do, and what follows is a study in desperation as their situation grows more and more severe.
Lacking any kind of effects and propped up by the simplest of stories, a lot of the movie falls on the shoulders of the cast. Ana Lily Amirpour, as Lily the director (all of the cast play characters with their own names), is ever-present behind the camera, a detriment to the film. Her bored sing-song narration is grating and she acts less like a director than the annoying relative with a camcorder at a family gathering. The other actors are much more enjoyable; the cast is an attractive and diverse group of people, all of them playing characters with clear and distinct motivations. There are a lot of moments – mostly early on – where their overlapping conversation falls in sync, resulting in a lot of natural humor in their dialogue. If they had more to do during the movie, I’m confident they’d be able to deliver excellent performances.
Unfortunately, there’s really nothing for them to do. After their van breaks down, all of their problems seem forced and fake. With no villain or opposing force in motion, the actors resort to inflating the danger of their situation, constantly asking each other “what the fuck was that?!” when nothing is going on and complaining about being wet when there’s no reason they should be. At one point, Lily follows Adam, the most captivating and interesting of the actors, as he runs toward the house they previously investigated. He ducks behind bushes and shouts, implying that he saw something. The camera zooms in, shakily, toward the house… and absolutely nothing is seen. Most of the movie is like this. The only time something actually happens to a character – a venomous snakebite – the action takes place offscreen. The dialogue is repetitive and inane, and after a while it’s impossible to ignore the artificiality of the whole ordeal.
The movie ends with a predictable twist that doesn’t do the narrative any favors. The filmmakers should have come up with an actual antagonist that could be seen on film; otherwise, they should have explored the idea that all of the characters’ worries were self-wrought. There’s footage of the actors doing interviews and read-throughs interspersed within the narrative, and in those moments there’s a lot of talk about imagination. There’s potential in this idea – that these actors, who require an active imagination for their occupation, end up worrying themselves to death in the desert because they can’t stay grounded enough to survive a serious situation. But, like the rest of the potential this movie has, it ends up wasted and unexplored.
Despite the best intentions and efforts of the filmmakers and cast, The Garlock Incident is an unnecessary addition to the increasingly overpopulated “found footage” horror subgenre. Without anything original or exciting to add to the field, The Garlock Incident‘s footage would be better off remaining lost.
On December 16th, 2011, eight people on their way to Las Vegas stopped in the ghost town of Garlock, California. This footage documents what happened.
While I haven’t seen any footage from The Garlock Incident, I have to applaud director Evan J. Cholfin and producer Ariana Farina for the immersive experience they’ve created (DIY style) around the film. The Garlock Incident was shot a little over a year ago in Kern County, CA… but your trail to seeing it is just beginning.
The mission statement of the filmmakers? “ to create an interactive online experience for the social media age–one entrenched in the world of Facebook, YouTube, Tumblr, and Twitter, that can be a shared, communal experience for those who have the enthusiasm (and perhaps courage for some) to participate.”
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