Demon House

2018 | rated R | Documentary | starring and directed by Zak Bagans | 1 hr 51 mins |

Special Halloween Horrorfest # 2

The list of TV shows that made the leap to the big screen with their original creators is not a long one. Ducktales, The X-Files, Borat, Strangers with Candy and best of all South Park. Now we can add Demon House, in which host/creator/paranormal adventurer Zak Bagans brings the long-running Travel Channel series Ghost Adventures to the big screen in all of it’s subtitled muffled-audio glory.

I’m not here to knock on Bagans’ belief and exploration of ghosts. A lot of people are passionate fans of Bagans, who has gone from terrified frat boy making TV that was fodder for The Soup to a hyper-serious, morose, all-black-wearing owner of his own Las Vegas mystery museum during the show’s run. But Bagans the documentary movie director is a bit of a different skill set. The movie is so empty, half-way produced and poorly made that were it not occasionally unintentionally funny it would barely be a movie at all.

Demon House even opens with a warning that you might possessed just by watching it. The entire production, Bagans says was cursed and proceeds to lay out a series of terrible tragedies that fell onto anyone who came through the house. The house in question worthy of the cinematic leap is a modest looking dump in Gary, Indiana thought to be the “Portal to Hell”. Bagans buys the house sight unseen over the phone – or at least that’s what his droll, affectless narration tell us, one of the first of many times something interesting, something that a documentarian would have cameras rolling for, happens off camera. Bagans also films himself telling off an unnamed Hollywood producer over the film rights to the house off screen while we get another of the seemingly miles and miles of B role of Bagans walking around in the snow, hands stuffed in his coat, looking at the sky contemplatively in full blown hero pose.

We get the usual Ghost Adventures bag of tricks, now with an R rating for uncensored demon possession rants. The Ghost Adventures model has always been weirdly passive. Bagans and his crew don’t seem to have an end game to either ward off or capture the spirit, he just wants to capture it’s existence on camera using a set of wall-mounts, voice recorders, night vision cameras and thermometer doohickeys that identify ghostly cold spots in the air. Zak Bagans just wants people to believe. That lack of an end game makes for a weak narrative, which works for a continuous episodic series designed to be binged on a lazy Saturday night but creates a mushy one-shot movie. He interviews a ton of people whom he has to blur out faces and voices because nobody has consented to be in this thing – out of fear! – which also makes for a lot of dead ends.

And speaking of dead ends, the ending of Demon House is totally bizarre. After being possessed by hostility himself, Bagans ends up doing the one thing the local cops that are too afraid to go in the house tell him not to do. His sleepy narration closes out the movie, but this time with an emphasis on it as if he’s about to say something else just as it cuts to black and the credits roll. It’s all so amateurishly put together and full of strange slap-dash decisions – and all this runs an insane 2 hours. For example, Bagans buys the house and then constantly refers to it innocuously as “my house” as if that’s it’s most important quality and not, oh I don’t know, that it’s a demon house or the portal to hell. Or one anecdote about a boy who walked backwards up a wall and the state ward who witnessed it seems oddly more surprised that the boy remembers none of it than that she saw him walk backwards up a wall. At one point in Bagans’ narration he affects a tone that pitches up as if he’s about to say something else – and then the movie spontaneously ends.

Bagans comes off a true believer here so I can’t fault him for that. Given Bagans the benefit of the doubt, that he’s documented spirits here in his garbled audio and cell phone footage, the movie as a movie is not much more eventful than a Paranormal Activity sequel. Every time Bagans comes on to tell us something that happened it simply begs the question why cameras weren’t rolling all of the time. He’s speaking to the converted here, this is Zak Bagans territory and yet he is unable to coherently form a story out of the house, the hauntings or the footage he’s captured. Whether true or not that is a story that could have still been worth telling.

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