Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

We mentioned this before, right after we saw the After Dark Original ‘The Task’ but I’m thinking it bears repeating that it looks like the whole ‘Reality TV Show’ horror angle simply does not work. I don’t know why it doesn’t work because it looks like it should work, especially considering the increasing number of horror movies that are launching themselves from this premise… REC / Quarantine non-withstanding… but ‘REC’ was working from a news angle and not a reality show angle. Today we have ‘Episode 50’ in which one of these ghost hunter type shows inhabit an evil nutjob ward inhabited by evil spirits. It’s all there, moody lighting, things darting in front of the camera, bloody apparitions, spooky sounds abound… but it just didn’t work. Why didn’t it work? I wanted it to work!

This movie begins in the middle of Episode 49 of the television show ‘Paranormal Inspectors’ where a crew of hardworking and attractive young people are dedicated to the task debunking the supernatural in favor of the paranormal. I’m not quite sure if I completely understand the difference, and it is pretty damned important that you understand the difference to comprehend some key points in this movie.

Our team consists of the leader Jack (Josh Folan) and his BFF since forever Damon (Chris Perry), Andi (Natalie Wetta) who provides us with the paranormal exposition stuff, and Jose (Robert Masionett) who is the tech guy. Sure enough, whatever supernatural thing the homeowners in Episode 49 thought was going on this house, this nonsense was summarily debunked by the crew, and it’s time to move on to Episode 50.

It’s a little convoluted how it all comes about, but there’s this rich guy who has lived a sinful life and needs to know if there is such a thing as heaven or hell, and to pull this off he sends the crew to this insane asylum in West Virginia, which is alleged to be the gateway to hell, helped along by whoever enters these walls ending up dead. Sounds like a great place to spend a couple of dark nights. If the P.I team can debunk this, then this means the rich guy is just going to die into nothingness, otherwise he’s going to burn for eternity. For a balanced view, this rich guy also sends a devout Christian group, led by Dylan (Keithen Hergott) who is really tall and firmly believes that the supernatural is the way and not the paranormal. I guess all you really need to know in relation to the two is that Supernatural = God Exists, Paranormal = He Does Not.

So both crews are in this place all of five minutes and the weird stuff jumps off immediately. There’s also a Scottish Celebrity Host on board in Kieron (Kieron Elliot) who is admirable in this movie because he’s the one with the good sense to flee in terror at the hint of anything scary about to happen. It becomes clear to most everyone that something supernaturally evil is happening amidst them, but Jack, forever the doubter, refuses to accept this because of some deep dark secret that happened to him and his BFF Damon when they were kids. But what exactly is going on at the East Hell Insane Asylum? Well, this where ‘Episode 50’ gets a little… strange. And you’ll have to experience that strangeness for yourself because I won’t spoil it for you. I don’t think I could spoil it even if I tried because I barely knew what was happening anyway.

Written and directed by the married team of Joe and Tess Smalley, ‘Episode 50’did have loads and loads of unrealized scary and dramatic potential. Yes, the whole ‘Ghost Hunters’ angle has been done before… largely unsuccessfully… but by adding in the two different philosophical camps, the movie does present a different spin on the concept, but I don’t believe the differences between the two camps were clarified enough which minimized their impact on each other. They did bicker a lot, that’s for sure, but the divide between the supernatural and the paranormal didn’t have enough diversity. Then there was ‘Jake’s secret’ which was hidden until almost the very end, but due to the abbreviated length of this movie, the Smalley’s kind of just blew by it and as such it too had almost no impact on anything that was about to happen. Then there was what did happen which was just completely bizarre. Again, I think this was because of the film being so relatively short, and especially as it was nearing its conclusion it felt as if there a rush to squeeze all the stuff in that they needed to squeeze into the movie, before time ran out, which didn’t allow for much development of these high concepts.

The atmosphere was nice and spooky enough, the performances were earnest, and the additions to the concept were solid and had potential but it felt to me as is the filmmakers just ran out of time before they could bring these solid ideas together to create a unified and coherent horror experience.

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