If I had to sum it up in a phrase, my first choice would be, "Direct to video." For reasons I cannot fathom, and even after reading the particulars on various sites, still can't speculate as to who owed whom a favor to have this film hit the silver screen. But there it is, and so I went.
Sarah, 17, recently had her best friend Megan killed by a drunk driver. Megan's grandma, Mrs. Shaw, apparently still expects Sarah to keep a promise she made at the funeral to visit the old lady. Sarah hops in her sporty new Volkswagon, with a Mothers Against Drunk Driving bumper sticker clearly legible on the bumper, and drives from San Diego to Pine Valley, California, to visit grandma, and learn us up a bowl of paranormal hour factoids.
The car breaks down as soon as she gets into town (apparently drivers wanted, but mechanics needed for an otherwise reliable little car). The mechanic is a man full of suspicious talk about a great tragedy, but stops short of talking about it. The mechanic calls his helper, Matt, in to give Sarah a ride to Mrs. Shaw's place, and naturally, since Sarah and Megan are best friends and grew up there, Matt and Sarah already know each other (he was her first kiss).
Yessiree, it doesn't get much better than this. The story is broken down into bite-size pieces that would make Jell-O squares at the senior center seem gigantic. They explain the paranormal hour is the one hour (y'know, 60 minutes) before midnight and 1am, when paranormal activity is at its peak. As the plot nears the doom point, the on-screen captions tell us it's now 11am. And a second screen tells us that's 13 hours before midnight.
Um, duh! I can only imagine that either the filmmakers thought the audience too dim to do that math, or they needed to justify the salary for the caption-making guy. A union gig?
Speaking of the filmmakers. The closing credits looked like a family reunion. Directed by Lisa Comrie; written by Lisa and John Comrie. Matt and David were played by the brothers Comrie, and little Johnny is a Comrie family member. The key grip is also the guy playing the mechanic, and the lead actress, Sarah (Rissa Walters) is making her film debut; the others are either, or new enough that I'd bet my lunch money you've not heard of more than one of them, and that would be a fluke.
New isn't bad, as a rule -- you gotta start somewhere. But this film had all the ear-markings of a student film project that, only by the grace of a studio executive with a sense of humor, should have never hit theatres.
It had a few attempted-to-be-scary moments, and there were a few screams in the theatre. But they were 10-12 years old, talked through the whole film, and even screamed when the cat jumped off the sofa, just to keep it in perspective. The theatre, apparently clued in to this film's theatre, screened it in the smallest theatre they had, and half of the seats were sectioned off for cleaning... leaving about 30 open for patrons. There were still 20 unused on a Friday night; 'nuff said.