Sunday, November 15, 2015

Review: The Death of April

Text © Richard Gary / Indie Horror Films, 2015
Images from the Internet

The Death of April
Written and directed by Rubin Rodriguez
Mojo Creative Group / itn distribution
86 minutes, 2012 / 2015

After college, Meagan Mullen (Katarina Hughes) moves from her family in California to Bayonne, NJ (isn’t that punishment enough?) for a teaching job. And then there is something other-worldly going on in her apartment.

Mixing documentary style (“based on a true story…”) and found footage, we learn right from the start that something has happened to Meagan, as she is referred to in past tense, so there is no spoiler alert there. Her mom (Stephanie Domini), dad (Travis Peters) and law school student older brother (Adam Lowder), among others, reminisce about what a wonder kid she was, and beautiful person she turned out to be, while we see real VHS home video clips and photos of Hughes as she was growing up. This is a really nice touch.

Katarina Hughes as Meagan Mullen
Being a child of modern technological and mediated culture, Meagan is constantly video selfie-ing herself as a record to send home, which is a lovely thought, but man, the ego is tremendous. Is there anyone who actually needs to have this much of their life recorded?

But, of course, there’s the mysterious goings on, such as a door in the background opening and closing by itself behind her, or a strange shadow that crosses over the camera. Didn’t anyone else (i.e., family and friends) watch them? No matter what happens she stays there; I kept thinking of the Eddie Murphy routine from Delirious (1983) where he talks about white people staying in haunted places. Why didn’t someone tell her to get the fuck out? While spending half the time whining about sounds keeping her away or clothes that have been pulled out of drawers and end up on the floor, she claims she’s happy there, as well.

As you may have guessed by this point, this borrows liberally from the Paranormal films. What that means, of course, is that while Meagan or anyone else is in front of the camera, you’re not looking at them, you’re looking behind to see if any spookiness is slinking by. After a while, that stops though, as there is a “tell” (a poker term; look it up) where there is some “noise” on the image, sort of like digital static, just before something occurs (most of the time). As Michael Palin said in Monty Python, “Oh! What a giveaway!”

Perhaps on some level, Meagan brought this all on herself; it seems she would play with an Ouija board trying to conjure spirits at some point (pre-Jersey), and it is possible the spirits or poltergeist followed her, is one of the implications. After all, Meagan does a couple of strange things even before moving to Jersey, such as standing in the back yard during a rain staring at nothing.

One thing that kept sticking in my mind is that everyone keeps going on and on about how wonderful, open, cheerful, positive, etc., Meagan was, and I kept thinking that this is defensive behavior, because it was just too over the top, in a “the lady doth protest too much” (Hamlet, FYI) way. But I’m not even halfway through the film yet, so we’ll see, eh wot?

The entity in question is a riddle. Is it said poltergeist, is it the ghost of April (Paulina Grochala, who was also the lead character in a short film by Rodriquez called Faust, which is also centered around an Ouija board) who was murdered in the apartment before Meagan moved in, or is it possibly a demon as one character (Amy Rutledge) posits? April’s murder becomes an obsession for Meagan. Wisely for the story, there are a lot of open questions at the end, rather than sewing it up nicely, for which I’m grateful.

The film relies more on spooky happenings than on anything else, and while there is a scene with some blood, this is hardly what one could call a gorefest. If you’re looking for some exposed body parts, well, that’s completely out of the question. What you will see is some decent acting, an okay story that would be better suited at an hour rather than full feature length (but then again, I feel that way about most movies I review), and some nice jump scares. What you won’t find is anything related to the DVD cover image other than the aforementioned Ouija board. Oh, and the only extra is the trailer (as seen below).

This is totally a digression, but I once owned an Ouija board. At some point it unnerved me so much, I took an axe to it, and threw it in three different garbage containers around the neighborhood. Did not like the mojo.

As far as recommendations go, yeah, if you liked the Paranormal films, or enjoy stories of possession or supernatural events or things that literally go bump in the night, you might be pleasantly surprised.


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