Reel Advice from the Video Store Guy
By Steve Anderson
July 1st, 2014

Haunting of the Innocent

Haunting of the Innocent
Directed by Matt Hish
Written by Ian Ascher, Chris W. Freeman, Matt Hish
Starring Judd Nelson, Jessica Morris, Mariah Bonner
90 mins

I'm something of a sucker for ghost stories, and when I first spotted "Haunting of the Innocent" it looked like perhaps the bill would be filled. I love a good ghost story, especially when the ghosts decide the living are just too much to stomach and go off on a killing spree. Clear villains, clear heroes, and the clear narrative of the two forces taking each other on is tough to pass up. Sadly, that's not what I got with "Haunting of the Innocent." What I got instead was a real mixed bag of interesting elements and some less than sound matter that balanced out well, but produced nothing truly noteworthy.

"Haunting of the Innocent" takes us out to New England, where a father and husband is trying to give his family some peace following a recent attack. Moving the family out to small town New England seems like a great start toward achieving that goal, but it doesn't take long until it proves to be a much worse idea than expected. Our father and hero has merely traded one assailant for another, as supernatural forces come for both him and his family, and may well spell their doom just as effectively as the problems they'd left behind.

At first, it all seemed a bit shaky, until they slipped in this three-frame glimpse (I'm guessing at the number, of course as it might have been just slightly more or less; anyway, it's a real pause-button moment) giving us a look at the horror that was to be featured down the road. It was a very clever addition, and certainly got me to sit up and take notice. It's gone in a flash if you're not paying attention, so it's a good idea to do just that. There's also a bit of bonus here for anyone who understands the runic alphabet, or those who learned just enough of it from the "Halloween" movie series: just remember--"Thorn" has always been bad news.

But aside from these interesting twists, these half-glimpsed images and assorted horrors, there's an undoubtable slowness to the whole thing. Some might call it "deliberateness" and they wouldn't be out of line, but there's a little bit of drag going on in the proceedings. The flow has been impaired here, and while the flow has been traded off reasonably well for some genuinely spooky business, it's still going to be less than easy to work with. While the pacing may be off a bit, it has an undeniably sinister undertone that does it quite a bit of credit. It's sort of a balancing act here, and though it will stumble on the wire somewhat, in the end, it will produce a decent, worthwhile venture that should do the job nicely.

The ending, however, is where this movie loses its fragile little mind. Ever watch a guy carve runes into his own chest with beard trimming scissors before digging up the skeletal remains in his father in law's front yard then setting them on fire with a combination of gasoline and a really old sword? No? Well you will! And that's where the bonkers starts, not where it ends.

Special features include audio options, a commentary track, and trailers for "Stalled," "Cottage Country," "Exit to Hell," and "The Ouija Experiment."

"Haunting of the Innocent" has its flaws, make no mistake there, but it also does a reasonably good job of things. It's invested well in some areas, and failed in others, which means that, all told, the end result is very much not bad. Of course, it's also going to go completely insane in about the last twenty minutes, but for those who enjoy that sort of thing, this will be a very welcome treat.