In 2010 six reality television show contestants spent seven nights in an abandoned and haunted asylum. The show never aired but an editor for the network was able to piece together some footage. The prize for staying all seven nights was a share of one million dollars that was to be split amongst any contestants that didn’t leave. No prize money was ever awarded.
And so it begins, another entry into the cam reality haunting horde of micro-shot films aiming to thrill viewers with the purpose of scary buildings and ghostly residents.
We are told that on April 3, 2010 6 contestants have been chosen to spend the night in an asylum by the name of Madison Seminary. The group consists of 4 men and 2 girls all holding on to the hopes of a cash prize of 1 million dollars split between the remaining contestants. All they have to do is spend 7 nights within the abandoned building without leaving.
Right away, we are shown the building which despite the title card is called “Ohio Cottage”. Ok, so there was a few cleanups to do on the editing reel…fair enough. The footage we are viewing is said to have been pieced together from the contestants cam corders. Now it didn’t really state that they were “required” to film the whole event, but apparently they did.
But just for the record, the film is not all cam footage. with some if not many of the shots being corner room cameras mounted to show the action.
I will say I’m always a bit curious with these cinema verite films, to if they will cut the mustard. We assume a bit of the usual which is slow start, build up, and final conflict at the end. This statement has become the norm without uttering the phrase spoiler. In fact I believe this makes the 4th film I’ve seen that follows this exact same premise. One of last year, which is still the reigning champion is a films called “Grave Encounters“. There has been a few more, one of which I remember called “The St. Francisville Experiment (2000)”. And you know what? There are bound to be 5 or 6 more this year….probably so.
Not out of fairness, the motivation is always a slight bit different but the result is the same. Old building, supposed to be haunted, scary dark rooms and a bunch of ghostly apparitions that peek out of the corners when they feel like it. I get humored by the fact that,. the ghosts always stay docile until that last hour of the film when the winners are “just” about to walk away with the dough. Do ghosts stick to film schedules…that’s what I want to know.
So the story begins with much of the same expectations. The group laughs, makes jokes, talks about the prize money and begins to get on each others nerves with every passing day. A few shots are done MTV style with pull always that interview the contestants about what’s going on. Every morning they meet in the kitchen to open a new envelope stating what their task for that night is. As they investigate aka “Ghost Adventures” style, a few surprises pop here and there to elevate the tension. One of the girls, Lina ,(Jennifer Hoffman) is asked to do a seance of which she becomes catatonic in closing. In short form, this means she shuts up and stays immobile thru the rest of the movie. The guys all lean towards the nerdy end with minor observations during the course of the film.
“7 Nights of Darkness” was directed by first timer horror film visionary Allen Kellogg. I’m not going to say this is a great product, but compared to others I’ve seen, it’s not a total let down either. There are a few worthy jump moments even if the content is derivative and redundant. The build is slow grind which means the first 40 minutes are on the most part uneventful. We get to the “ghosts gone wild” portions eventually that are staged to an acceptable level. One in particular was the use of a doll, which keeps reappearing in the hallways. This prop is blended nicely with a real action spirit to the thrill of the screen. The ensemble cast all share the same level of acting talent which to me was acceptable but not exceptional.Meredith Kochan who plays Brooke, seems to be the most involved and most likely to get haunted.
I really wanted to stand on my soap box towards the end and say, look folks….when you hear screaming that doesn’t mean run and investigate….you’ve got a million riding on “you” staying put. But enough of my reasoning. Audiences might get bored with some of the day to day, but in the end it throws in a few thrills that are acceptable for a horror based audience.
7 Nights of Darkness (2011)