Originality is overrated. The best stories are the ones that execute well. Wes Craven’s classic Scream is a pastiche. With the exception of the Billy/Stu reveal at the end, it borrows every blood-soaked moment from other slashers. It doesn’t matter whether or not you’ve seen a masked killer charging with a raised knife before, because Craven does a masterful job building suspense and thinking through the most minute details. Sydney doesn’t just hide in a closet halfway through the film, she hides in the closet that Craven painstakingly showed the audience twenty-minutes earlier. Those small things, not original concepts (which can help), separate a great film from a good one. Haunted Hospital would’ve been okay if it were only lacking in originality, but the execution isn’t spectacular either, leaving it too good to be so-bad-it’s-funny and not good enough to really make an impact on its own.
The premise is archetypal. Six young adults spend a night in the titular haunted hospital. Three are established digital content creators, one is an up-and-comer, and the other two work as tour guides at the sanatorium during the on season. The trappings are original: the Prankstaz.tv bros play with corpses a la Logan Paul; the hospital was used for Nazi experiments; and director Michael David Pate tries to manipulate the material to fit his hatred of vloggers, but when all of that boils off, it’s still a found footage spend the night in the haunted house film.
The good news is that the titular Haunted Hospital delivers. Every shots looks like a real abandoned building (be it a sanitorium or a school, it doesn’t matter), covered in cobwebs, coated in dust, well on its way to being reclaimed by nature. It doesn’t feel like something someone built in this century.
The other thing going for Haunted Hospital is the characters doing their best to make the setting as scary as possible. They’ve come to see whether the guys from Prankstaz.tv or Betty (Nilam Farooq) from Bettyful (a beauty channel) can stay longer. The loser has to snap a flare when they give up. To capture as much of it as they can, they set up cameras all around the hospital. Then they whip out the infrared and the black-lights to do some ghost hunting. The film teases the paranormal, but also a more realistic angle with the serial killer the Beast of Beelitz, who recently killed a woman in that sanitorium and dashed her baby’s head on the wall.
The big reveal is a disappointment though. It’s not an “oh s***” moment. It’s a “I guess you could do that” twist. It is a surprise, but there’s not a build up that suggests this was the direction the film would gone in. Pate ends up alienating viewers rather than exciting them.
The other issue with Haunted Hospital is that everything in it is similar enough to better movies that it only serves to remind viewers they could be watching them instead. The sanitorium setting calls back to Session 9 and a slew of other horror stories set in similar locations. The backstory behind the main ghost, patient 106, calls back to Samara from The Ring/Ringu. The way she affects characters to the recent Netflix hit Bird Box. There’s even a demon dragging shot that could’ve been taken straight from Paranormal Activity. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with making references in a work of horror, but without the execution—the close attention to detail and the commitment to getting it as close to perfect as possible—it’s a scream, signaling that better movies exist.
The Blu-Ray/DVD two pack include a trailer for this film.
Wicked Rating: 4/10
Director: Michael David Pate
Writers: Michael David Pate, Ecki ZiedrichStars: Nilam Farooq, Farina Flebbe, Sonja Gerhardt
Release: February 12
Studio/Production Company: Fox International Productions, Schmerbeck Filmproduktion
Length: 89 minutes
Sub-genre: Found footage