Phantom menaces

Another Hole in the Head unleashes multiple malevolent ghosts. Plus: our guide to the film fest's horror highlights

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HoleHead includes some OK faux-docs -- and locally-filmed vampire amnesia mystery Apocrypha

cheryl@sfbg.com

FILM Does anyone actually believe Ghost Adventures is real? Including its hosts? For the uninitiated, this is the Travel Channel show that locks a trio of doucheba — er, paranormal investigators inside an allegedly haunted location overnight, leaving them with an arsenal of high-tech gadgets to record any paranormal happenings.

Inevitably, these goings-on include supernatural "voices" captured by one of their doohickeys (the voice always sounds exactly like garbled static, but is subtitled into meaning — usually a variation of "Get out!") Main host Zak Bagans employs obnoxious tactics to goad the spirits into responding. Did you see that one where he decided he needed to bare his telegenically pumped-up chest to provoke the phantom that hated tattoos? It was fully necessary, people. For science. Also, it was 24-karat unintentional comedy gold.

Ghost Adventures and similar shows (main ingredient: shaky, sickly-green night vision) are ripe for parody, but they're also au courant. As anyone with a pair of eyes and a thirst for blood can attest, there's been a trend in "I am filming myself at all times" horror since ye olden days of The Blair Witch Project (1999), sure to be buoyed along for another decade-plus thanks to the monster success of 2007's Paranormal Activity. (Last year's The Last Exorcism being a prime example.) If these films are fake-real, then shows like Ghost Adventures, which follow regular people through actual abandoned prisons, sanitariums, and the like, are real-fake.

Which brings us to Grave Encounters, a fake-real movie that does a number on Zak Bagans types and delivers some pretty decent scares in the process. (Don't be put off by the directors' corny nom de screen, "the Vicious Brothers." Although, dudes — really?) The film, which closes out the 2011 Another Hole in the Head Film Festival, is introduced by a slick production-company type who assures us that what we are about to see is undoctored video from a ghost-hunting reality show. Seems the crew of Grave Encounters, including lead investigator Lance Preston (Sean Rogerson), have vanished from the crumbling confines of their latest filming location, a decrepit mental hospital with a sinister past.

With this Blair Witch-y setup, the found footage rolls, including outtakes that let us know Lance and company are skeptics not above manipulating circumstances to get the shots they need. The faux-show apes Ghost Adventures' title sequence, low-angle shots, and jumpy editing. There's even a slightly unhinged caretaker on hand to lock the Grave Encounters folks in for the night. And this wouldn't be a horror movie (as opposed to a highly questionable reality show) if creepy critters didn't end up coming out to play. It's not a spoiler to disclose that once doors start slamming by themselves, full-scale shit-hitting-fannage (shades of 2001's excellent Session 9) is not far behind.

In a similar vein, but with a more succinct running time and more likeable characters, is Haunted Changi, one of HoleHead's opening-night films. A group of young filmmakers (portrayed by actors who have the same names as their characters) set out to make a documentary about Singapore's Old Changi Hospital, a vacant structure troubled by the lingering fragments of World War II-era prisoners of war and their decapitation-happy Japanese captors. Plus, the occasional vampire. Old Changi Hospital is apparently a bona fide ghost-hunting hotspot, which makes the fake-real Haunted Changi a little more real than it probably ought to be.

Comments

I have been on the set of GAC and the Host Zak Bagans (former film student by the way), came in and asked if he could use some of the space in the room...to do what I thought...he was rehearsing! Everything on that show was crap...thougth it was a cool halloween gig, till I found out it was all fake. We set our cameras up and watched the smoke and mirrors show. The guys were cool, but total frauds. We were introduce to the "stunt quardinator"...why would we need him, unless ohhh that's right, the falls, jumps, runs and screams are all fake...he makes sure that they don't get hurt and the make up artist makes sure that when they do...it looks real. From start to finish its a short movie...done quick and ad-libbed I was hoping for the real deal, instead it was BS!

Posted by Bob T on Jun. 01, 2011 @ 7:19 am

The more I think about it, the more I'm certain that show exists only to fuel drinking games!! Hilarious that they have a stunt guy on-set.

Posted by cheryl on Jun. 01, 2011 @ 10:52 am

Are you sure he wasn't doing this for stunt work or the cheesy "re-enactment" sequences? I had a friend who was on the set on their Niagra episode (filmed on the Canadian side at an old fort) who reported literally the opposite experience as yours.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 01, 2011 @ 5:19 pm

the "rehearsals" they film are for the interviews you see before they investigate and BoB T your just a jealous liar... keep hating on them cause this show is the best...dork LMAO

Posted by Guest on Jun. 02, 2011 @ 12:00 am

all you bastards hatin on Ghost Adventures including you Bob T with your little make up story abou being on the "set" of Ghost Adventures I was a guest investigator on their show and they are the MOST realistic paranormal team on TV...they have NO ONE in these locations except for them. So heres a message to all you trash talking JEALOUS haterz. They are the #1 paranormal show on televisiom that gets the best evidence of any tv shows. So do you think with all that success they would have haters???? Keep hatin folks for biggest bad asses in the paranormal. Bob T you will be cursed for makin up your stupid ass story

Posted by Bob T nice fake name dum ass on Jun. 01, 2011 @ 11:49 pm

they DO rehearsals and stuff for the reenactments for the interviews BEFORE the lockdown...I filmed with them as guest investigator on an episode....during the "Lockdown" its just the 3 of them and they are the most authentic investigators on television....Ghost Hunters is the show that has the "scenes"....and here's a message to all....being the #1 Paranormal Show on telelvision and all their success in the spotlight...if you dont have haters like the writer of this stupid blog....then you dont have success KUDOS to Ghost Adventures and we look forward to seeing many more seasons....shit they even have movies copying them!!!!!!!

Posted by Guest on Jun. 01, 2011 @ 11:56 pm

UR AWESOME! U calmed me down so thanks(:

Posted by AW YEA! on Jun. 07, 2011 @ 5:04 am

Zak had a stunt coordinator for a stunt he did for fun at Bonnie Springs Ranch....I laughed when the Bob T guy commented and made up the story funny dude.... they are super legit my friends dad owned one of the locations they filmed at and when they get locked down they actually have the owners watch the outside of the building proving they are in there by themselves... Ghost Adventures are awesome and go to their events they they will show you to your face its not a "smoke-n-mirrors" show like the loser said at the top comment

Posted by Guest on Jun. 02, 2011 @ 1:14 am

wow zak got pissed

Posted by chelsea on Jun. 02, 2011 @ 8:16 am

Ghost Adventures is a compelling show and I can personally attest to the presence of paranormal entities. Articles like this are the reason I only pick up the SF Bay Guardian for the weed ads in the back!

"If these films are fake-real, then shows like Ghost Adventures, which follow regular people through actual abandoned prisons, sanitariums, and the like, are real-fake."

No. The authenticity of people's experiences and life-changing encounters with unexplained phenomena are the inspiration to many of these "fake-real" films. To the writer of this article, I suggest you enter the abandoned USS Hornet docked in Alameda. Spend the whole night there and let me know if your opinion has changed.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 04, 2011 @ 8:53 am

Ghost Adventures is a compelling show and I can personally attest to the presence of paranormal entities. Articles like this are the reason I only pick up the SF Bay Guardian for the weed ads in the back!

"If these films are fake-real, then shows like Ghost Adventures, which follow regular people through actual abandoned prisons, sanitariums, and the like, are real-fake."

No. The authenticity of people's experiences and life-changing encounters with unexplained phenomena are the inspiration to many of these "fake-real" films. To the writer of this article, I suggest you enter the abandoned USS Hornet docked in Alameda. Spend the whole night there and let me know if your opinion has changed.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 04, 2011 @ 8:56 am

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