Only Asylums Have Ghosts These Days (Greystone Park, 2012)
You readers might think that last line is a joke. And that is probably because you have not seen Greystone Park. Sean Stone, son of Oliver Stone, brings us a film that borrows liberally from it’s predecessors. Sean has worked mostly in the realm of documentary and shorts… But I do not think you should cut a filmmaker new to a genre so much slack that you ignore things that are not excused by being new to the genre.
And yet, Sean Stone thought the cool idea for a horror movie is to do a found footage film set in an abandoned and haunted asylum with a tragic past! And I get it. My hard reaction here is not because the “People Trapped in Haunted Asylum” is a bad idea. It is not. It is a very strong idea. Unfortunately, it has become a crutch for the found footage industry. Grave Encounters 1 & 2, Paranormal Incident, Episode 50 all used this notion. And it predates the found footage genre as well…There were films like Gothika, House on Haunted Hill and Return to House on Haunted Hill and the excellent Session 9.
So, now that I got that off my chest? Lets begin.
Using the Cloverfield style of footage taped over footage introduces us to Sean and his friends conversing about fear over dinner with his father “Oliver”-played by Oliver Stone…and there is problem # 1. Yeah, I was not familiar with all the actors…but it was not hard to discover that Sean is Oliver’s son. So, it begs the question, are we supposed to think this is a story about Sean Stone, son of Oliver Stone, famous film director? Or was it simply easier for the filmmakers to not have to remember character names?
Anyways, Sean and three of his friends go into the abandoned asylum (Greystone Park was an actual abandoned asylum that looks creepy as hell) to face their fears. We get quick snippets of old footage of the asylum, which I am unsure how they got to be part of this found footage. As they explore, they run into scary sounds, dolls and a dining area. Soon, it becomes apparent they are victims of a practical joke perpetrated by the friends from dinner.
But then it goes horribly wrong and the real ghosts go on a killing spree. This is all because one character declares that “Ghosts can’t hurt you, right?!” That is like asking “But…dinosaurs cannot eat you, right?” in Jurassic Park. The film is an unfortunate mess of cliches taken from other films. It brings nothing new to the asylum or found footage genres. The characters are not engaging, so it becomes hard to become invested in the story.
Ignoring traditional found footage rules, they use a musical score and it is not helpful. It simply hints that these character’s experiences cannot draw you in, so the music tells you the needed beats. While the visuals are okay, nothing about the film manages to set it apart from other films of the same genre. It adds nothing, while borrowing nothing. The film commits the worst of movie sins. It got boring. The “exciting parts” were dull. I had seen this before in movies that suddenly looked better to me in comparison.
Oh yeah…one other bit of advice for aspiring filmmakers? STOP ADVERTISING YOUR FILMS AS “BASED ON A TRUE STORY”! IT IS A FILM ABOUT GHOSTS MURDERING PEOPLE IN AN ABANDONED ASYLUM AND WE KNOW THAT HAS NOT HAPPENED–NOT EVEN TO OLIVER STONE’S KID.