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The Most Muddled Ghost Story Ever? A Review of "Episode 50"

Episode 50 is a low budget horror film written and directed by Joe and Tess Smalley, and released late last year. In a time of ever increang found footage horror films and televion shows about ghost hunters, the premise is quite inspired: why not make a horror movie featuring the found footage of a team of TV ghost hunters who met an unfortunate end?I initially had high hopes for the film. It cleverly begins by slapping a TV14 ratings block on the screen to make it look like you're watching an actual televion show, and it follows a team of ghost hunters who are predominantly skeptics about any sort of life after death. In fact, the title "Episode 50", comes from the fact that this team has previously dis proven 49 separate paranormal claims. I thought I was in store for a movie where a bunch of people who don't believe in the supernatural are forced to admit that it does, in fact, exist and I was very much looking forward to accompanying them on that journey, despite some mediocre acting from some of the principal players. Alas, the movie soon reveals a much more nuanced take on belief versus disbelief. The leader of the team, Jack (played by Josh Folan) believes in some types of spooks but not others. Bacally, he thinks ghosts are just leftover energy and not really alive or conscious. If they had left it there, it would have been much less confung. However, later on in the film, Jack starts talking about how a poltergeist is obviously trying to trick everybody, which most definitely makes it seem like he believes this entity does have some form of conscious thought. My heart sunk as this character continually contradicted his own statements from earlier in the film.The found footage format is problematic here as well, nce the movie sporadically abandons that whole angle to show the characters in their normal lives, and then decides to be a found footage movie again. Bacally, they make sure to come from the found footage angle whenever a character is being hurt or killed by a ghost. That way, they can get around their budget constraints by having the ghosts "mess up the camera feed", thereby obscuring most of the actual death scenes. Unfortunately, this isn't one of those instances where a movie fares better by not showing us what the big bads look like. For the most part, every scene with a ghost in it comes off as G-rated and boring. The only exception is when the movie features the ghost of a nurse trying to manifest herself as she moves about in a herky jerky fashion. That part was fairly well done, but the filmmakers must have blown their whole budget on making that one ghost look decent.The film also does a respectable (though not perfect) job of establishing suspense for the first quarter, as the TV show team of ghost hunters is joined by an oppong group of non-skeptics, who come from a far more biblical standpoint and have a medium in their company. It seems at first as if these two groups might end up somehow getting each other killed, despite their eventual decion to compromise and work together. Unfortunately, the film largely wastes this whole angle in favor of more blurred out ghost encounters and scenes of people wandering around foreboding environments to little effect.In fact, wasting the most effective elements is a habit of this film. The last half hour or so is painful to watch as large chunks of the cast are forgotten completely, others are left to dubious fates, things are attempted that the filmmakers mply didn't have the budget to pull off, and the script gets increangly heavy handed about God and Christianity. The actors do their best in these final scenes to ratchet up the intenty and make it seem like any of this is worth caring about. Unfortunately, one of these guys has a tendency to get high pitched and nasal when he's expresng strong emotion, which only makes the proceedings more grating. Finally, the movie gives us the final confrontation between those survivors the script didn't forget about and "the inhuman". All I'll say about that part is that I've seen scarier devil costumes on toddlers during Halloween.Episode 50 starts out in clever fashion and gets a few things right early on. Then it begins its downward spiral into lackluster scares and unintentional humor, and it mply never manages to recover. I give it 2 out of 5 stars.

ImmortalSidneyP Friday 1/13/2012 at 04:46 AM | 89391