XLrator Media // 2012 // 83 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Jason Panella // October 19th, 2012
Do you believe in ghosts?
The scariest thing about this movie is trying to figure out where the $3 million budget went.
In 2009, three totally real-life friends (Sean Stone, Alexander Wraith, and Antonella Lentini) took a video camera into the totally real and abandoned Greystone Park Psychiatric Hospital in New Jersey to see if it was really haunted, or something. This is their totally real footage, bro.
There's a moment early in Greystone Park where a faux-documentary clip summarizes the Kirkbride design plan that many 19th century American mental asylums used. The scene is interesting, if only because Thomas Kirkbride's plan is interesting; resulting in these sprawling Victorian-era structures that were both gorgeous and unsettling. The brief historical background is then shoved out of the way by a bunch of quick-cuts to archival images, static fade-outs, hokey post-production tinkering, and nauseating handheld camera work.
And that's pretty much the remaining 80 minutes of Greystone Park in a nutshell.
The whole thing is based on "true events" Sean Stone (son of director Oliver Stone) and Alexander Wraith (Savages) experienced wandering around abandoned buildings over the past few years. They accurately recreate that aspect in the movie, I guess, since most of the film involves vapid people bumbling around in the dark shouting, "What was THAT?!"
Alex meets Sean at a dinner party thrown by his famous filmmaking dad (in a gratuitous cameo). After hearing some ghost stories, the two decide that going into Greystone Park with a camera will be scary. Sean recruits NYU student Antonella Lentini (Wannabe) to come along, and the trio sneak into the abandoned building to look for the ghosts of two former patients.
This fairly simple plot somehow turns into a convoluted mess within the first 20 minutes. Most of the dialogue is improvised, ranging from expletive-punctuated mumbling to Alex's poor attempts to explain how shadow monsters can drain people's positive life-force. Everything culminates in a confusing half-baked finale, but I didn't care enough about any of these insufferable characters to try to decode it.
I understand Stone was trying to make an authentic film by using appropriately amateurish found footage, but it just ends up being incomprehensible. The only lighting comes from a crappy flashlight and the occasional overhead florescent bulbs that (still?) seem to be working. And since Stone can't seem to keep the camera still, don't plan on deciphering what's going on...ever.
This camera mayhem drains any inherent creepiness from the film. I recognize some of the locations (none of which were actually Greystone Park) are pretty spooky, but there's a disconnect when it's presented like a high school video project that someone waited until the last minute to work on. Heck, Brad Anderson's moody Session 9 used a real Kirkbride asylum to full effect, and it only cost half of Greystone Park's budget. Once again, we prove there is no qualitative link between money spent and final product.
The DVD presentation is nothing spectacular: standard definition 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, Dolby 5.1 Surround (with an alternate 2.0 Stereo track), and no subtitles to help decipher in the coherent dialogue. Not that it matters.
Surprisingly, we do get a fair number of bonus features. A commentary by Stone, Wraith, and Lentini shifts rapidly from interesting filming anecdotes to overbearing pseudo-scientific rants. A pair of making-of featurettes prove to be the best bits, especially the one that focuses on the three locations standing in for Greystone Park. Finally, we get an alternate ending that provides one of the film's few laughs, even if it is unintentional.
Greystone Park is terrible, and not in a so-bad-it's-funny way. This is an exhausting bore that should have never been released from the asylum.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: XLrator Media
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 83 Minutes
Release Year: 2012
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Alternate Ending