One year ago, Agnes Rickover attended opening night at the Bates Motel and Haunted Hayride to see her best friend Lily’s dramatic debut. A horrific accident resulted in Agnes witnessing Lily’s fiery death in a spectacle gone wrong. After a year of obsessing over a murder investigation everyone else thinks is open and shut, Agnes goes to work at the Haunt in an attempt confront her trauma. Horrific events begin to claim the lives of her coworkers and Agnes must figure out what is behind all of the “accidents” before more people die
I’ve been watching horror films long enough to know that not every single horror film is going to break brand new ground. Not every horror film is going to affect the viewer days after the viewing. In fact, I’ve realized that with the majority of horror films that I watch, all I’m looking to get out of it is to relax and have a good time. Having said that, in this day and age the market is so saturated with low-budget, indie horror films that there is no way that we could watch them all… so we, as horror fans, are used to picking and choosing what to watch. How does a low budget, independent film starring actors that nobody’s ever heard of go about getting noticed?
The Bates Haunting had a couple of tricks up their sleeves.This film takes place at the local haunt run by the Bates family (no… not THAT Bates family). Every year the Bates turn their land into a haunted hayride and people from all around come and enjoy the Halloween activity. One year, however, there is a terrible accident where one of the actresses in the haunt is burned alive by one of the haunt’s attractions. Our main character, Agnes, was there to witness the accident and it’s taken quite a toll on her psyche. The story picks up one year after the accident while the Bates’ Haunt is getting ready to open up for business, when Agnes finds herself in desperate need for a job and because of some poor choices she had made in the year between the accident and the present time, it seems like the haunt is the only place that is willing to hire her.
We’re introduced to the workers, including the owners of the haunt who seem like very kind folks running their business. As everything is ramping up for the haunt season, people start getting slaughtered one by one. In true slasher form, it is up to the final girl, Alice, to solve the mystery of who is killing people at the haunt and why.So, like I said, that seems like a plot synopsis that we’ve all heard before. Well… it seems that way because it is.
There are many of the familiar low-budget slasher tropes that we’ve all become accustomed to, including the horny teenagers who leave the group for some boom-boom time and meet their untimely demise. There’s the red herrings and the twist at the end. This movie isn’t going to blow you away like the first time you saw the Matrix did. However, to spite the bad acting and the tired setup and story, there was a lot of good to take away from this film. First of all, it looked great. The characters were fun and likeable… a trait that seems to be difficult for most of the films in this class. The gore effects were done really well and the kills were imaginative. I think that setting a film at the local haunt is a great idea if only because of the fertile ground with which to come up with ideas to kill off the unsuspecting victims.I ended up really liking this movie. For all the reasons I mentioned above, I found myself feeling entertained and satisfied after watching this film. It’s not going to become the next Eraserhead or El Topo, but this film did what I expected it to do… which is to entertain me and give me some laughs and thrills.
Now, let’s get back to the topic I brought up in the first paragraph of this review. What do the people who made The Bates Haunting somehow make it stand out and rise to the top of the seemingly endless sea of low budget, indie horror? Well, the first, and most obvious trick they tried, was to call the movie The Bates Haunting and on the cover of the DVD, add a hotel that looks just like the Bates Motel. Well, I guess you gotta do what you gotta do in this case, but I felt like this was very misleading since the only real reference to that Bates horror film was a quick scene in the haunt where Mrs. Bates shows up.
The second thing that the filmmakers did was to cast Ryan Dunn in this film. Known for his crazy hijinx on the show Jackass (and later on meeting his untimely death), Ryan Dunn is brought into this film for one reason, and one reason only… name recognition. His scene has nothing to do with the plot and could be tossed out without this film being any worse off. In fact, I found his scene to be distracting and it was so obvious what the filmmakers were doing in including this scene, it made me feel like I’d been had. The unfortunate thing about their interesting gimmicks that I mentioned is that they didn’t have to rely on those to make a good film. However, I can totally understand why they did it, even if it may have been somewhat misleading or even insulting.
In the end none of that mattered. There was a lot of good and a lot of bad in this movie. It won’t take a film historian or student to find the flaws in the story, characters, or any other part of this film. However, I would say that this is definitely worth watching if you can keep your expectations in check and understand what the filmmakers were trying to do.
The Bates Haunting (2012)