2.5 out of 10

Released Date: 14th October 2014 (DVD Premiere)

Director: Steven M. Smith (Haunted 5 / Haunted 4 / Haunted 3 / Haunted 2 / Borstal / Invasion EarthI Am Hooligan / Essex Boys – Law of Survival / Hooligans At War / The Time of Her Life)

Cast: Jon-Paul Gates, Steven M. Smith, Vivien Creegan, Freddy Fuller, Gemma Gurvitz, Natalie Gurvitz, Laura Penneycard, Briony Rawle, Frank Threapleton-Horrocks, Samantha Scott and Jeremy Hill

Writer: Mark Behar, Steven M. Smith, Zane Casablanca, Svenja Quazzani, Zane Quazzani

Trailer: HAUNTED (2013)

Haunted-2013-Movie-Steven-M.-Smith-2Hahaha, ever wondered what it would be like to throw a bunch of kids from Essex in a haunted house and watch the results? Then wonder no longer. Here comes Steven M. Smith‘s crack at a horror faux-documentary with hand-held cameras. Barely anything scary is captured on camera except for a bunch of panicking Essexers with verbal diahorrea!

Six Essex twenty-somethings get invited to spend the night ghost hunting with a film crew for a TV show. The destination is a haunted train museum (with sped-up trains!) in deepest Essex. There’s a legend of a creepy ghost who derailed a train only to go mysteriously missing in the 1960s. He’s been seen stalking one of the platforms late at night. Will they be able to resist updating their Twitter accounts or talking about themselves for long enough to understand that our world and the next is about to blend in unintentionally funny ways.

Haunted has some wonderfully, relaxed performances from a largely unknown cast. Most impressive is Vivien Creeger as the presenter of the show – I didn’t see what happened to her in the melee of carnage that happened at the end. Secondly, the director Steven M. Smith (ESSEX BOYS – LAW OF SURVIVAL) gives the acting lark a bash and besides feeling a need to talk over the rest of his cast, he seems at ease as a performer. Only Jon-Paul Gates (HAUNTED 2) strains to convince as The Medium. He’s OK most of the time but when he’s required to do anything psychic or react to anything spooky it goes pear shaped for him. He also struggles to pronounce some words  as well like when he describes the undead spirit of Mrs Jones as having ‘coffee-ered’ instead of ‘coiffeured’ hair, it prompts cackles.  There was another couple of instances that were unfortunate, but I won’t labour the point.

Whilst it was an easy watch, thanks to the panicky, self-obsesessed big mouthed characters, who just wouldn’t shut up long enough for you to pick up the ambience of the setting, there’s still a bus load of things wrong with this Essex Witch Project. Everyone was shouting, “Shhh, what the f**k was that?’, “What?”, “Shhh”, “Don’t tell me to shhh! Ere wass that over your shoulder?” etc, etc.  One scene which has to be recommended purely for comedy purposes was when one of the ‘witnesses’ Freddy (FREDDY FULLER) is left to complete a lone vilgil in an Underground tube train. He get’s spooked and reacts in such a great way intially, he would easily put Scooby & Shaggy to shame. Then again, when he’s re-enacting what happened to him to the rest of the stunned ghosthunters, he’s hilariously animated. But then he re-enacts it again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again. At least it was realistic because I’ve seen people do this in real life, relate how a story went in a loop until somebody shuts them up. Same goes with one of the girls, one of them says the same sentence four times in a row describing how safe she feels in a particular part of the train museum. It could be the Steven M. Smith has tapped into the most vital form of Cinema Real as it refuses to behave like a film I’m amazed to see that Haunted has 5 credited writers, as it’s just improvised and those that shout the loudest get their lines heard. Where was the editor? If it’s the same guy as the one who did the chopping job on Hooligans At War and Essex Boys – Law of Survival. He was probably drunk, again.

There’s no scares to be had and the ending is botched, as a creature called The Station Master (JEREMY HILL) goes on a killing rampage at the end. Which is disorientating and non-sensical. Who dies, who lives?

2.5 out of 10 – Mostly unscary but a committed and natural cast lift this off the bottom. Sadly, it’s funny not chilling. Worth watching for the Underground train sequence.

PS: This has been rejacketed in 2016 and renamed Ghosts.

Second review by Matt ‘Toastbusters’ Usher below



One thought on “HAUNTED aka GHOSTS (2013)

  1. Review by Matt Usher

    Do you believe in ghosts? In this micro-budgeted bad movie, possibly filmed in one night, half a dozen fame-hungry semi-sceptics (all from Essex, in their late teens or twenties, photogenic and with tiringly bubbly personalities), assemble in a limousine of latent catastrophe and discuss the supernatural in reality and fiction. (Shockingly, they think PARANORMAL ACTIVITY is the gold standard of horror films. The youth of today!) We follow them as they are whisked off and arrive at a haunted railway museum of ill repute. We learn of their beliefs, fears, hopes and dreams. Endlessly. They never shut up. They meet a film crew, including the film’s director Steven Smith who seems to be playing a director called Steven Smith. And we see them experience a night in the museum for the benefit of a ghost-hunting reality TV show. But disaster strikes, blood is spilt, and all that is left to tell the tale is (you guessed it) some shaky footage found in the cold light of day.

    That may be a typical plot outline for any of a thousand films. But HAUNTED is different because it really happened! Sort of. I think. Some of it.

    What really happened that night, I wonder? My theory: I think most of those on-screen believed they had signed up for a reality TV haunted house show, and this is what was made. However, some of them were in on the joke and performed some semi-improvised scenes. At the end I think the director revealed all and rapidly filmed the plot and death bits. The fun for the viewer is guessing which bits are ‘real’ and which are acted.

    This means I’m saying HAUNTED uses genuine footage of people being mildly spooked and then presents that footage as if it’s fictional within a frame which pretends that it’s real; then the film adds fictional footage under the pretend guise of reality, leaving the film in a state of perpetual ambiguity. If you’re reading this Mr Smith could you put me out of my misery? And also confirm whether I’m right?

    HAUNTED opens with a mock-documentary sequence in which a TV presenter (who really is a TV presenter-turned actress playing, presumably, a fictionalised version of herself) asks a medium and a historian about the museum’s past. (I think they’re actors, or people who aren’t convincing being themselves. Actually the medium is an actor (there’s no rule that says actors can’t be mediums so maybe he’s an actor who is a medium playing a medium who is acting being mediumised – or is he?)) (HAUNTED is much more sophisticated than you’d think.) He gives away the nature of the threat: a station master many years earlier got the blame for something bad he didn’t do. It was really his greedy/complacent/stupid bosses (isn’t it always?) but the station master went off in a huff and was never seen again. Even the dumbest viewer knows he’ll return, dispensing mayhem and teen-death, his scariness marred only by his uncanny resemblance to Mackenzie Crook, Robin Askwith and Jack from On the Buses.

    There is nothing here for an average viewer, not much for horror fans, and nothing for critics or award-givers (yet only yesterday the director advertised for an editor to

    help him with two sequels!). To a very limited extent it works as a showcase: the performers (sorry, I can’t quite call them actors) include several who show promise and are extremely comfortable in front of the camera, so this might just about work as a source of showreel material. Particularly for Freddie Fuller. He plays Freddie (all the characters are named after their actors, thus either adding an extra layer of verisimilitude, or providing evidence for my theory about the film’s origins) and is a natural performer. He encounters a very scary thing, and is keen to share this experience with his fellow inmates. However, for reasons known only to the director, Fuller retells the story many times. Any one of these versions would be an admirable demonstration of Fuller’s ability, but collected together in a single extended span they combine to provide proof that there’s nothing as good as a decent script. In a sense this sequence is incredibly realistic, as we have all suffered the purgatory of people endlessly retelling a story. But in the director’s bold refusal to cut away, the scene attains a certain Beckettian grandeur, a meditation on the perpetuation of fear, a nightmare made flesh. Maybe Fuller is still there, Sisyphus-like, recounting the horror. (Dear God I’ve not just predicted the whole of HAUNTED 2 have I?)

    As in Beckett, little happens for a long time. Rarely has an audience had to wait so long for the blood to flow. Mostly we’re watching a pretend TV show being produced. The director sets up various challenges and segments which occasionally result in someone seeing a slightly suspicious shadow. Occasionally our protagonists catch a glimpse of some far-off figure which may be a dog-walker or member of the very large cast/crew (there are a lot of TV crew-members and unexplained extras – like the girl who keeps her face covered by a scarf – what was she doing? Was she meant to be there? OMG IS SHE A GHOST!?!?!). At one point two girls argue, one collapses. Later someone gets scared by something. This turns out to be the central event of the film, and it remains debatable whether our protagonist was the victim of a hoax, or of some more sinister visitation. But maybe it is the viewer who is the real victim, both of the hoax (this film isn’t scary) and of a sinister visitation (just the prospect of two sequels is alarming). But then again isn’t it a fundamentally forlorn and strange thing to wish to be terrified by harmless moving images? HAUNTED perhaps succeeds as an exercise, but it curiously questions the nature of the genre itself, which may not have been its intention but it takes your mind off all the TOWIE wannabes.

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