The Castle Project DVD Review
Written by Michel Sabourin
DVD released by Cinema Libre Studio
Directed by Brian Higgins
2013, 76 minutes, Not Rated
DVD released on November 6th, 2013
Matthew M. Baxter as himself
Bryan Bonner as himself
Brian Higgins as himself
Ostensibly this is a true life documentary about some investors renovating a historic building for use as a bed and breakfast and the paranormal activity they experienced during the work. A well-known stop on the Denver Ghost Tour, the Croke-Patterson Mansion is oft rumored to be haunted. Over the 120 plus year history of the house, many people claim to have had supernatural experiences there.
Through the course of the documentary, we get a history of the hauntings as well as some firsthand accounts by the renovation crew and the new owners. There are some standard static night-vision shots of eerie phenomena, which is either explicitly debunked or has simple, logical explanations.
The narrative told by the order of shots and happenings owes itself heavily to Paranormal Activity but lacks anything of real substance during these monitored sleep sessions. It feels more like the investors had heard the rumors of the haunting and set up the cameras in an attempt to get something they could use to attract attention and visitors. But nothing much comes from this except for some interesting EVP (Electronic Voice Phenomenon) activity. In an EVP session, the investigators set up a specific type of recorder in a room and ask the "spirits" questions. The EVP picks up noises and responses outside of our range of perception. Now, I'll admit I'm a sucker for a good ghost story. Throw in some good old EVP recordings and I'm usually on board. I get chills each and every time a ghostly voice is heard muttering in a supposedly empty room. While I can't speak to the veracity of the recordings, I will say they seem far clearer than most I've heard. However, they do represent the one legitimate area of intrigue in the film.
The lack of recorded phenomena, outside of coincidental cat death and other easily rejected phenomena, is what drags down the majority of the work presented. The fact that it's mostly badly mic'ed interviews doesn't help either. But what really makes it go haywire and take a turn for the wtf? is when they try to provide historical evidence based on the architecture and materials involved in construction to justifiably prove a supernatural occurrence is happening.
It becomes muddied and confusing as the topic switches from actual witnessed phenomena to a lesson in symbology better suited to a Dan Brown novel. The film posits that the house may function as some sort of purgatory based on some of the religious symbols used in its design, but first you get a 10-minute dissertation on the history and art depiction of purgatory, with a large emphasis on The Divine Comedy. No kidding. That happens. Most of it seems as an excuse to go to Italy to shoot. Also, the coincidence that portions of Colorado look like some of the backgrounds in paintings of purgatory, and that's where the bricks for the Croke-Patterson Mansion were mined, is proffered as proof positive. It's a little pretentious, presumptuous and bordering on ridiculous. For example, the ichthus wheel stamped into the floor of the carriage house that is supposed to represent an early Christian symbol for believers in Christ could, you know, be a carriage wheel, representing a carriage house, where the symbol was found. You can always find symbolism if you look hard enough at anything, and this feels like grasping for straws. As a Syfy channel Ghost Hunters half-hour special, this house would make for great storytelling. In the hands of this crew, you get The Castle Project. Some style, but not enough substance and too much supposition.
Video and Audio:
Presented in 16:9, the overall image quality is fine, if amateurish. It has a lot of the common presentation issues of low budget, amateur features made with inexpensive digital cameras. It is washed out in places and sometimes out of focus or improperly framed.
There are no offered audio options for this release. The overall sound quality is mixed at best due to poor audio capture and mixing. Voices are alternatingly muffled in interviews and blaring in voice overs.
The only special feature on the disc is the original trailer for the movie.