Well then let’s just come out and say it; if there was ever a movie title to get lost in the shuffle amongst all the results on a streaming service search engine it has got to be this. Beyond that initial confusion if anyone is actually expecting a slasher movie, or something with any resemblance to a certain lakeside horror series, then they’re in for a bit of a let down. Which is putting things lightly. There are no stalk and kill scenes to be found here I’m afraid to say. So the question then becomes what is this exactly? Well let’s just say it’s a jumbled mash-up of all kinds other films, mostly in a supernatural vein. However that being said… it doesn’t really want to emulate any of them very well. When you start to wish they’d just rip-off a single idea and actually focus on doing it properly, then that’s when you know things are bad.
A group of friends drinking outside a derelict house sit around and make some idle conversation with each other. It’s all rather stiff and awkward. There’s relationship melodrama brewing, but don’t worry about it becoming a soap opera because none of these details are going to be important. One member of the gang heads inside randomly and discovers ‘The Calendar’, a mysterious orb. Meanwhile another member of the group stands outside and tells a pretty lacklustre story about Satanic powers and missing children. But the tale is interrupted by screams from inside, and soon they all become the victims of a sinister curse. It wants to be spooky but there are many issues preventing this from being the case.
A lot of the immediate problems stem from the cheap special effects and the bad dubbing. It doesn’t help that the supposedly old and abandoned house is strangely clean and tidy. In fact it’s really well decorated and nicely furnished, and there’s also a good amount of lighting inside. The other, perhaps more important, issues come along when it becomes very apparent that film makers weren’t sure what kind of story to tell. The mystic sphere is part Hellraiser and part Phantasm, and the haunted house set-up lends it a touch of Ju-On: The Grudge. There are also a few demonic possession tropes going on. A strange ghost covered in black paint sometimes appears, and sometimes there are visions of plates of food becoming worms. But what’s really going on here?
The actual storyline, for what it’s worth, concerns the orb which opens up to reveal a strange thirteen month countdown. On the outside it looks like a cheap plaster prop but inside, which is somehow even cheaper looking, it contains a CGI gadget with moving clockwork. The group discover that they will be doomed if they don’t appease it, which can only be done by sacrificing thirteen innocent people. There’s a lot of other silly, and often tedious, exposition about ancient calendars having more months than they have today (oh that lousy Smarch weather!) and then there’s something about the fall of Satan from Paradise. However, the whole thing seems to have been made without anyone realising the obvious; a group of people killing others and dealing with the psychological consequences is an intriguing subject to explore. Something far more interesting than any of this ridiculous Biblical nonsense.
If this wasn’t the focus then the narrative could have at least been a story about the characters forcing each other to commit the murders, before questioning their own moral fibre and their own sanity. Instead we get a lot of questionable acting as they feel vaguely concerned about what they’ve done. There are also a bunch of (poorly attempted) jump scares, and several odd sequences in a tourist cave. For some reason it’s populated by a few Smeagol look-a-likes. At one stage they try showing Allison (Lisa May) having a few personal problems as she contacts the victim’s families; to appease her guilty conscience in secret. But she barely counts as a lead and it doesn’t go anywhere compelling. Nobody is ever that disturbed by these events, which are all shown in a montage at the start. This introduction is the only interesting sequence in the whole affair.
Elsewhere there’s not one but two reporter sub-plots with people investigating these strange goings on. Which is baffling when it all just leads to more random deaths, all of which fail to provide any shock value or atmosphere. Even scenes inside the spooky mansion are flat and dry without any suspense. Weird noises are heard, disturbing visions are had, and occasionally ghosts pop up here and there. They even steal that silhouette gag from the short film (and the subsequent feature) Lights Out without any real purpose. The sinister bar scene from Inception where the patrons all start staring also shows up for some reason. Just throw it all in there guys, don’t worry about writing any actual character drama or a compelling series of events. I’ve heard of the idea that ‘everything is a remix’ but this is going too far.
The often uneven and frequently random nature of the film becomes pretty exhausting after just a short amount of time. Which is a problem when it feels so much longer than the advertised ninety-five minute running time. Without a single solid core idea or even any kind of real protagonist to focus on it’s just a lot of weird copycat moments strung together by a variety of very wooden performances. If you’re looking for a film about weird arcane artefacts, cursed houses occupied by angry spirits, or a story about cults, then go elsewhere. Or if you just want a movie with people doing questionable things under extreme stress then pick one. Do anything else in fact, it’s got to be more fun than this.